French authorities to close Paris mosque in crackdown on extremism


London, Oct 20 (IANS): A well-known mosque in a northern suburb of Paris is going to be shut down by French authorities as part of their clampdown on Islamist groups and suspected extremists after a history teacher was beheaded last week outside his school.

The French police are investigating networks suspected of promoting extreme religious beliefs, spreading hate and encouraging violence. The interior minister, Gérald Darmanin, said the mosque in Pantin will be closed on Wednesday for six months.

The mosque, which has about 1,500 worshippers, had posted a Facebook video about Samuel Paty days before the 47-year-old history and geography teacher was decapitated last Friday, The Guardian reported.

The video violently criticised Paty's decision to show his class -- after giving Muslim students the chance to leave if they felt uncomfortable -- two caricatures of the prophet Muhammad alongside other cartoons as part of a class discussion on free speech.

Paty was stabbed and beheaded outside his secondary school in Conflans-Sainte-Honorine, about 20 miles north-west of Paris, by an 18-year-old of Chechen origin named Abdullakh Anzorov who was shot dead by the police soon afterwards.

Before his murder, a fierce online campaign against Paty and the school was started by the father of a pupil who had not attended the lesson. The father had posted a number of videos calling for Paty's dismissal, one of which the mosque shared.

Both the father and Abdelhakim Sefrioui, a well-known Islamist radical who also posted videos online and campaigned for Paty's removal, were among 16 people arrested in connection with the killing, including four members of Anzorov's family.

Jean-Michel Blanquer, French education minister, said on Tuesday that Paty would be posthumously awarded France's highest award, the Légion d'Honneur, and a national ceremony will be held in his honour at the Sorbonne University in Paris on Wednesday.

French President Emmanuel Macron is under pressure to come up with an effective response to the latest in a series of Islamist terror attacks that have rocked France since the 2015 Charlie Hebdo massacre, in which two brothers, Saïd and Chérif Kouachi, forced their way into the magazine's office and killed 12 people for publishing cartoons of the prophet Muhammad.

More than 240 people have died from Islamist violence since 2015, prompting opposition politicians -- particularly on the right -- to accuse the government of waging a battle of words rather than taking decisive action.

 

  

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