Paris, 14 October 2022
Two years ago, on 16 October 2020, a history and geography teacher, Samuel Paty, was assassinated and beheaded in a small town near Paris by a lone-wolf Jihadist of Chechen-Russian origin, incited by an islamist Imam, reportedly because he had shown, among others, caricatures of the Prophet Mohammed to his students during classes on the subject of “freedom of expression”.
This Sunday, 16 October 2022, at 2 p.m., the newly-formed French “Friends of the Wiesenthal Centre” will commemorate Samuel Paty, to remember his role in fighting against hate and intimidation, and upholding freedom of expression.
Only last week, death threats were addressed against a Jewish teacher in the Paris suburb of Evry: “...The dirty Jew must stop being a smart-arse. We’ll do a SAMUEL PATY to him and to his old father, the Zionist rabbi. We don’t want Jews in the schools, stay in your synagogues...”
For Dr Shimon Samuels, Director for International Relations of the Wiesenthal Centre, “this occasion is to remember all other victims – Jewish or Gentile – of antisemitism, bigotry, intolerance and violence, such as Daniel Pearl.”
Pearl, an American-Jewish journalist married to a French colleague, was kidnapped and murdered by Al-Qaeda in 2002, while investigating links between a British Islamist and Jihadi groups based in Pakistan. The infamous video of his beheading was the first of a series, intended to intimidate and horrify the West.
Over the past 20 years, among other murders – in France alone – that can also be considered as attacks on “freedom of expression”:
- 85-year-old Mireille Knoll in 2018. She often narrated her plight as Holocaust child survivor;
- Sarah Halimi in 2017, a retired teacher, who was killed because she was a Jew. Her murderer was exonerated because “under the influence of cannabis”;
- Father Hamel in 2016, beheaded while preaching his own freedom of religion to a handful of elderly faithful;
- the over 130 victims at a concert in the Bataclan theatre and in the nearby cafés in 2015, because they felt free to drink and dance;
- the 12 killed in the attack on the Charlie Hebdo satirical magazine offices in 2013, because of their caricatures of the Prophet Mohammed...
All such murders were carried on by Islamist extremists.
Samuels recalled, “our late mentor, Simon Wiesenthal, would have sadly repeated, ‘further proof that what begins with the Jews does not end with them!’”
This 16 October commemoration is also to remember those – of any religion or political orientation – who struggled to uphold the values of tolerance and freedom of expression in societies where denial, hate and violence are running wild.
The event is to be held at the Samuel Paty Square, facing the Sorbonne University in Paris.
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