Posted on October 21, 2020

After Teacher’s Decapitation, France Unleashes a Broad Crackdown on ‘the Enemy Within’

Adam Nossiter, New York Times, October 19, 2020

France on Monday unleashed a broad crackdown on Muslims accused of extremism, carrying out dozens of raids, vowing to shut down aid groups and threatening to expel foreigners as anger swept the country following the decapitation of a middle school teacher for showing caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad in class.

Many of those swept up in raids were already in police files for showing “signals” of potential radicalization, like preaching radicalized sermons or sharing hate messages on social networks, government officials said. More than 200 others — the bulk already in prison — were threatened with a rare mass expulsion.


The scope of the response was a measure of how the killing of Samuel Paty, a teacher in a suburb north of Paris, had reopened old wounds in France. The nation remains traumatized by terrorist attacks by Muslim extremists that killed scores in 2015, starting with the editorial offices of the satirical Charlie Hebdo magazine — whose cartoons the teacher had shown.

As much as the Charlie Hebdo killings, the beheading of Mr. Paty has struck deep inside the French psyche as an assault on a principal pillar of the French republic — the secular public school system — as well as the nation’s devotion to freedom of speech.

Thousands of people took to the streets in cities around France over the weekend to demonstrate their horror at the killing on Friday. And politicians, especially on the right, jostled to sound the alarm against “the enemy within,” as the hard-line interior minister, Gérald Darmanin, put it in a radio interview, referring to so-called radicalized Muslims.

Some voices were raised against the breadth of the government’s raids, but in general the tone was set by President Emmanuel Macron’s likely principal challenger in 2022, the far right leader Marine Le Pen, whose party has targeted Muslims and immigrants for nearly 50 years.

“This situation calls for a strategy of reconquest,” Ms. Le Pen said Monday. “Islamism is a bellicose ideology whose means of conquest is terrorism.”

Even before the attack on Mr. Paty, Mr. Macron, looking to consolidate a right-leaning electorate that is his only solid base heading into the 2022 election, had embarked on a campaign against what he called “Islamist separatism” in a speech earlier this month.

The speech reinforced the idea, current on France’s right, that there is a large and hostile Muslim contingent waiting in the wings — the country’s suburbs — to tear down French values. Mr. Macron vowed to end home-schooling as well as the practice of bringing in foreign imams.

On Monday, the police began their work at 6 in the morning, going after “numerous” Muslims in multiple raids, Mr. Darmanin said. {snip}


Some 51 Muslim aid organizations will also be targeted by the police this week, the interior minister said, some of which would be dissolved at Mr. Macron’s request. Mr. Darmanin called the most prominent of them, Collective Against Islamophobia, the C.C.I.F., which compiles a register of anti-Muslim acts, “an enemy of the republic.”


Already, 15 people have been arrested, including family members of the suspect, an 18-year-old Chechen refugee named Abdullakh Anzorov, who was shot dead by the police Friday night after the killing. Also in custody is the father of a student at the school who had denounced Mr. Paty online for showing the caricatures and had demanded his dismissal. {snip}

The interior minister announced that it would expel 231 foreign citizens identified for their radicalism, including 180 who were already in prison. {snip}