The head of an Islamic pro-Hamas group and the father of a student incited the grisly murder of a French teacher who was beheaded last week in a Paris suburb after showing his class Mohammed caricatures.
One suspect was named as Abdelhakim Sefrioui, the Moroccan-born head of a pro-Hamas group called the Collective Cheikh Yassine, named after Sheikh Ahmad Yassin, the founder of the Hamas terror group who was killed in an Israeli airstrike in the Gaza Strip in 2004.
According to a report by the French media reports, Sefrioui has been well-known to French intelligence for his virulent anti-Semitism and pro-Palestinian activities for almost 20 years. He reportedly condemned the teacher on social media several days before the beheading.
In 2011, an iman in a Paris suburb, Hassen Chalghoumi, was placed under police protection after Sefrioui slammed him as a “pawn of the Zionists.” In 2014, Sefrioui was the main organizer of protests in Paris against Israel during Operation Protective Edge.
Chalghoumi told French media that Sefrioui was “dangerous because he seduces the youth. He is more dangerous than [Islamist academic] Tariq Ramadan because he seduces the base, the parents.”
“They apparently launched a fatwa against the teacher,” French Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin told Europe 1 radio about the two men who were arrested following the attack. Nine other suspects have also been arrested.
French President Emmanuel Macron said that Collective Cheikh Yassine will be dissolved at Wednesday’s Cabinet meeting as well as a mosque that also denounced the teacher. Speaking in the Seine-St.-Denis region, northeast of Paris, Macron stressed that he wants “tangible results” to combat an ideology of destruction of the (French) Republic.
Macron has asked for quick, concrete action in the case. The French president is waging war on what he calls “separatism,” referring to Islamist extremism that authorities say has created a parallel world in the country that counters French values.
Speaking after a meeting with regional officials working to counter radical Islamists, Macron added that other associations and individuals are on the radar to be shut or silenced.
A mosque in the northeast Paris suburb of Pantin is being closed for six months starting Wednesday night. A sign posted by the regional prefecture at the mosque entrance said the house of worship would be closed for six months — with a six-month prison sentence for violators.
The Pantin mosque is being punished for relaying the angry father’s message on social media that called for mobilization against the teacher. The father quoted his 13-year-old daughter as saying the teacher had asked Muslims to leave the classroom — a version that was contested by Paty himself, according to press reports. Authorities say the mosque has long had an imam following the Salafist path, a rigorous interpretation of the Muslim holy book.
Pantin was also the home of an 18-year-old Pakistani refugee who three weeks earlier attacked and injured two people with a meat cleaver.
The beheading resonated far beyond France with the grand imam of Al-Azhar, the Sunni Muslim seat of learning in Cairo, dissociating himself and all Muslims from the attack in a message read to faith leaders at an interfaith prayer service Tuesday in Rome. Calling the beheading “sinful and criminal,” he also said that intellectual integrity is compromised by “insulting religions and abusing sacred symbols under the slogan of freedom of expression.”
A terror investigation is underway into the killing by an 18-year-old Moscow-born Chechen refugee, who was later shot dead by police. The killer has been identified by authorities as Abdoullakh Anzorov.
A judicial official said early Wednesday that seven people detained in an investigation into the grisly slaying, including two minors, were to go before an investigating magistrate later in the day for eventual preliminary charges. The seven were among 16 people, including five adolescents, initially detained for questioning. Nine are being released. The official was not authorized to be quoted by name.
Investigators are trying to learn how the killer, who lived in the Normandy town of Evreux, set up his encounter with Paty, whether there was complicity and whether the beheading was premeditated.
Meanwhile, over 1,000 people gathered in drizzly rain to honor Samuel Paty where he was beheaded Friday as he left school in Conflans-Sainte-Honorine, northwest of Paris. Bouquets of flowers were piled in front of the school.
Paty had shown caricatures of the prophet of Islam to his class earlier this month for a discussion on freedom of expression. His civics course led to parental complaints and threats.
A national memorial event will be held Wednesday evening to pay tribute to Paty in the courtyard of Sorbonne university, a centuries-old symbol of the “spirit of Enlightenment” and “a forum to express ideas and freedoms,” the French presidency said.
(YWN Israel Desk – Jerusalem & AP)