Disclaimer: This article presents the reports by the media at the time of this writing.)
October 16, 2020 was a day that sparked shock, sorrow, and unity. Samuel Paty, a school teacher in France, was killed by “an 18-year-old radicalized Chechen refugee who was angry that the teacher had shown caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad in his class on freedom of speech,” explains Paris reporter Eleanor Beardsley.
The killer, who was later killed by police, was born in Moscow but ethnically from the Chechnya region in the North Caucasus. He moved to France in 2008. Others, including some of his friends and two students, have been detained for their alleged involvement.
On October 6, Paty showed caricatures of Prophet Muhammad in a lesson on freedom of speech to his civics class. Depicting Muhammed in this way is viewed as blasphemy since Islam prohibits images of Allah or God and the prophet.
These comics were originally published by Charlie Hebo, a satirical weekly magazine. Five years ago, the magazine’s offices were attacked–the lives of twelve people were ended. Timing it with the start of the trial for the attack, Charlie Hebdo announced a reprint of the cartoons. Those images were presented at marches and protests that stood up and supported the teacher Samuel Paty.
Publishing director Laurent “Riss” Sourisseau, who was wounded in the 2015 attack, firmly wrote, “We will never give up… The only reasons not to reprint the cartoons stem from political or journalistic cowardice.”
French President Emmanual Macron called Mr. Paty a “quiet hero,” promising to “defend the freedom that you taught so well” and “promote secularism.”
However, that was not the end. Two weeks later on October 29, a knife attack killed three people and injured others near the Notre Dame Basilica in Nice, France, on the same day Muslims celebrated the birth anniversary of Muhammad.
President Macron called it an act of Islamist terrorism and an attack on France. In response to this violent threat, he plans to mobilize the Operation Sentinel security mission and increase its allocated troops to seven-thousand from the initial three-thousand. He also ordered a Muslim association in France to dissolve.
While Turkey’s government and the ambassador to France condemned the attack, tensions between the two nations have risen. Mr. Macron called Islam a religion “in crisis,” and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan opposed Macron’s “anti-Muslim agenda,” claiming he needs “mental checks.” Turkey’s state prosecutor, located in the capital, launched an investigation into the leadership of Charlie Hebo, and France called back its ambassador to Turkey.
Not long later on November 2, a gunman carrying an assault rifle, handgun, and machete, opened fire at six places in Vienna, Austria, including bars where people spent one last night out of their homes before the COVID-19 curfew. Four people died, and twenty-two others were injured.
Chancellor of Austria, Sebastian Kurz, called the incident an Islamist terror attack and proclaimed, “We will defend our fundamental values, our way of life and our democracy with all our strength.”
Austrian police later raided eighteen properties and arrested fourteen people for possible involvement. Twenty-years old and killed by police at the scene, this killer has Austrian and North Macedonian citizenship. He was previously charged for seeking travel to Syria to join the Islamic State. However, he was released early because the Interior Minister determined he was ready to integrate into society and was “engaged with deradicalisation programmes.
Chappell, Bill. “3 Dead In Apparent Terrorist Knife Attack At Church In Nice, France.” NPR, NPR, 29 Oct. 2020, www.npr.org/2020/10/29/929047937/3-dead-in-apparent-terrorist-attack-at-church-in-nice-france.
“France Teacher Attack: Seven Charged over Samuel Paty’s Killing.” BBC News, BBC, 22 Oct. 2020, www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-54632353.
Kenyon, Peter, and Eleanor Beardsley. “France, Turkey And The Charlie Hebdo Cartoons: What’s Behind The Dispute?” NPR, NPR, 28 Oct. 2020, www.npr.org/2020/10/28/928669164/france-turkey-and-the-charlie-hebdo-cartoons-whats-behind-the-dispute.
Murphy, Francois. “Austrian Police Arrest 14 in Manhunt after Gunman’s Deadly Rampage.” Reuters, Thomson Reuters, 2 Nov. 2020, www.reuters.com/article/austria-attack-int/austrian-police-arrest-14-in-dragnet-after-gunman-kills-four-on-rampage-idUSKBN27I2P7.
Neuman, Scott. “’Charlie Hebdo’ To Reprint Muhammad Cartoons As Trial Linked To 2015 Attack Begins.” NPR, NPR, 1 Sept. 2020, www.npr.org/2020/09/01/908414559/charlie-hebdo-to-reprint-muhammad-cartoons-as-trial-linked-to-2015-attack-begins.