The Oct. 16 beheading of history teacher Samuel Paty by an Islamist terrorist in a Paris suburb is an attack on freedom of speech and the rights of all working people, as well as a deadly consequence of Jew-hatred.
The French government is using the ghastly attack to further erode democratic rights and strengthen the imperialist state’s repressive apparatus, proposing legislation that would allow it to outlaw groups that promote “Islamic separatism.”
Paty was murdered by Abdoulakh Anzorov, an 18-year-old of Chechen origin, who posted a photo of the beheading on Twitter. “I have executed one of the dogs from hell who dared to put Muhammad down,” he wrote. French police later tracked Anzorov down and killed him.
The killing took place on the occasion of the opening of the trial of 14 people who were associated with the deadly anti-Semitic assault on the offices of the satirical French magazine Charlie Hebdo in 2015. The magazine had published demeaning cartoons of Islam’s Prophet Muhammad.
In early October the 47-year-old history teacher had angered the father of one of his Muslim students when in a class discussion on “contours and limits of free speech” he included showing the cartoons from Charlie Hebdo. The father posted several videos demanding Paty be fired and called him a “thug.”
Paty told school officials he had warned students he was going to show the pictures and they didn’t have to look at them if they didn’t want to.
Among others taken into custody by French police were the student’s father and Abdelhakim Sefrioui, the leader of Cheikh Yassine Collective, a group that openly espouses anti-Semitism and backs Hamas, the reactionary anti-working-class party that rules in the Gaza Strip. Sefrioui helped the father get his videos out.
The government in Paris also ordered the dissolution of the collective and closed down for six months a mosque it said was linked to the case.
Shortly after the Charlie Hebdo cartoons were printed in 2015, Islamist gunmen, the brothers Cherif and Said Kouachi, assassinated five cartoonists and eight others at the magazine’s offices in Paris. Two days later, their associate, Amedy Coulibaly, who said he was acting on behalf of Islamic State, entered the Hyper Cacher kosher market and killed four shoppers. He told the media he wanted to get “some Jews.”
President Barack Obama at the time called the killings at the kosher market “random,” refusing to admit that Jews were a special target.
About a month prior to the murder of Paty, a man wielding a knife seriously wounded two people in Paris outside the former offices of Charlie Hebdo. The magazine’s current address is not public. The magazine had just republished the controversial cartoons to mark the opening of the trial, and to show they would not give up the right of press freedom.
Several Muslim religious leaders condemned the murder of Paty. Kamel Kabtane, the representative of a mosque in Lyon, said, “Muslims must be united to face this ignorance and violence.”
“All working people must condemn the vile killing of Samuel Paty, as well as the second round of attacks against Charlie Hebdo,” Malcolm Jarrett, Socialist Workers Party candidate for U.S. vice president, told the Militant Oct. 23. “Jew-hatred is a deadly danger for the working class, in the U.S. as well as in France.”
Jarrett also condemned the repressive moves of the French government. “Dissolving groups the government disagrees with on the basis of their ideas undermines the fight to defend free speech and oppose Jew-hatred,” he said.