PARIS - French President Emmanuel Macron paid a soaring tribute Wednesday to a middle school teacher brutally killed in an Islamic terrorist attack last week, while vowing an all-out fight against radical Islam he said threatened the nation. Seven people, including two teenagers, face possible prosecution.
President Macron’s homage to slain history teacher Samuel Paty was broadcast live from the Sorbonne University in Paris — picked deliberately for its symbolism of learning and light.
Macron called Paty the kind of teacher people never forget: a man who was respectful of his students and had read the Muslim holy book, the Quran.
Paty –who posthumously received France's highest Legion of Honor award – had become the face of France, the President said, of the nation’s determination to destroy terrorists and thwart Islamist extremism.
Macron’s address was among a number of displays of anger and grief in France after Paty’s gruesome beheading last Friday as he returned home from the Paris-area school where he taught. French prosecutors have charged seven people with the killing.
Among them are two teens, part of a group of students who were paid by Paty’s killer to identify him. The assailant, 18-year-old Abdullakh Anzorov, was shot dead by police shortly after stabbing and beheading Paty. Officials say Anzorov was apparently motivated by anger after the teacher showed cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad in a class on free expression.
Also charged in Paty’s death, France’s anti-terror prosecutor Jean-Francois Ricard said, was the father of one of Paty’s students who launched an online hate campaign against the teacher over the cartoons – along with a known Islamist radical who helped with that campaign.
This is France’s second terrorist attack in less than a month, and the government’s response has been swift. Police have carried out a number of raids and are vowing to expel more than 250 foreign-born radicals as well as shut down institutions allegedly linked to radical Islam.
Among those targeted for dissolution is the Collective Against Islamophobia in France for allegedly supporting the father’s hate campaign against Paty. But the organization's head, Jawad Bachare, rejected those charges claiming his group was being used as a scapegoat by a government that cannot protect its nation.
Many French have responded to these latest attacks with protests and silent marches in defense of free expression and secularism.