Friday’s brutal murder of high school teacher Samuel Paty in France has once again sparked a debate on extremism and sent the country into crisis, with National Rally leader Marine Le Pen slamming French President Emmanuel Macron’s failure to control terrorism in the country.
“Islamism is at war with us. We have to evict it from our country by force,” said Marine Le Pen in response to Paty’s death.
President Emmanuel Macron has long been under pressure to take a tougher stance on Islamic extremism and separatism. Among other things, speculation about the expulsion of more than two hundred radicals in response to the attack started to circulate in the media. France is also expected to tighten up the screening of asylum applications and increase control over the funding of Islamic organizations.
However, Macron has made sweeping promises to combat Islamic extremism in the past that never came to fruition. In fact, a similar Islamic extremist beheading occurred in France just in 2015, and little progress has been made since then.
History teacher Samuel Paty was beheaded because he showed his students a caricature of the Prophet Muhammad in a class discussion focused on freedom of speech. He was assassinated by an 18-year-old Islamic Chechen radical who was born in Moscow and had refugee status in France.
Macron is aware that the sensitive issue is closely connected to his other political ambitions. He is expected to wage battle for the Élysée Palace in 2022 with Marine Le Pen, and polling shows it will be a tighter race than 2017. Her campaign will undoubtedly be based on promises of stricter action against radicals and together immigration controls. She has called for all unaccompanied minors to be deportedback to their country of origin, which she says will help control the issue of crime and terrorism, and reduce the massive cost burden they incur on France.
Following the beheading attack, French police have launched an investigation of dozens of Islamists, mainly because of their posts on the Internet. According to the AFP agency, Minister of the Interior Gérald Darmanin announced this action, explaining that a father of one of the students and a Muslim activist issued a fatwa against the history teacher. Fifteen people are in custody in connection with the investigation, according to AFP.
“One of our compatriots was murdered because he taught about freedom of speech, the freedom to believe or not to believe,” Macron said after the attack.
At the same time, the French president has been labeled a failure to tackle the issue of extremism. French journalist Patrick Edery in Poland even released documents showed that the Chechen responsible for the beheading attack had his asylum request to Poland rejected ten years ago along with the rest of his family. Edery highlighted that Poland has suffered zero Islamic terrorist attacks in sharp contrast to the deteriorating situation in France.
The attack on Samuel Paty, whose memory was honored by tens of thousands of people on Sunday, has taken on incredible symbolic meaning.
“Paty is a martyr for sacred French values. He is seen as a victim of war for France’s future,” Tom Rogan, a Middle East expert, wrote in a commentary for Washington Examiner.
On Sunday, Reuters reported that 231 foreigners suspected of religious extremism will be deported in response to Paty’s murder. However, the Ministry of the Interior did not confirm the information.
In September, a man of Pakistani descent also committed a terrorist attack outside the old offices of satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, stabbing two people over the magazine’s decision to republish its Muhammad cartoons. He is a so-called unaccompanied minor who confessed to lying about his age to get protection status upon entering France, revealing to authorities that he was actually 25 instead of 18.
Those people and organizations associated with radicalism are reportedly under more intense observation at the moment, with authorities mulling dissolving certain organizations.
The government also is preparing a law focusing on Muslim radicals, which, according to authorities, create a parallel society defying French values. Therefore, the interior ministry plans, for example, to educate imams in France instead of having them come from abroad.
Other plans of the interior ministry include the reduction of foreign influence, mainly the financial one, on the French Muslim population of about six million people. Furthermore, it intends to tighten the rules for home education, which should only be allowed for health reasons.
The draft legislation should be ready in December. Macron is trying to avoid giving the impression that he blames the entire Muslim community for the recent attacks. That is why he wants French Muslims to take part in the planned measures. Earlier this month, he also spoke about the necessity to invest in the suburbs of large cities where most immigrants live. He also said that the country had failed for decades as it allowed the emergence of ghettos where “the most radical forms of Islam have become a source of hope.”