World News – US – A teacher, his murderer and the failure of French integration


For generations, public schools have assimilated the children of immigrants into French society by instilling the ideals of the nation The beheading of a teacher has raised doubts as to whether this model still works

ÉVREUX, France – They could easily have shared the same classroom – the immigrant teenager and veteran teacher known for his dedication to instilling the ideals of the nation, in a relationship that had turned waves of newcomers into French citizens

But 18-year-old Abdullakh Anzorov, who grew up in France from age 6 and was the product of his public schools, rejected these principles in a horrific crime that shocked and enraged France Offended by the cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad shown in a free speech class given by Professor Samuel Paty, 47, the teenager beheaded him a week ago with a long knife before being shot by the police

France paid national tribute to M Paty because the murder was seen as an attack on the very foundation – the teacher, the public school – of French citizenship In the anger sweeping the nation, French leaders have vowed to redouble their defense of a public education system which plays an essential role in the formation of national identity

The murder highlighted the growing challenges of this system as France becomes more racially and ethnically diverse Two or three generations of newcomers are now struggling to integrate into French society, the political establishment agrees

But the nation, on the whole, balked at the suggestion of critics, many in the Muslim community, that France’s model of integration, including its schools, needs an update. day or a redesign

President Emmanuel Macron’s categorical defense against cartoons has also led to ripples abroad Several Muslim countries, including Kuwait and Qatar, have started boycotting French products in protest Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan questioned M Macron’s mental health in a speech, prompting France to recall its ambassador to Turkey

Monsieur Anzorov was the latest product of French public schools to turn against their ideals: two brothers who went to public schools in 2015 attacked Charlie Hebdo, the satirical magazine that published – and republished last month – caricatures of the prophet Muhammad

Jean-Pierre Obin, a former senior national education official, said that public schools played a leading role in the « cultural assimilation and political integration » of the children of immigrants who « had become good little French « and no longer felt » Italian  » , Spanish, Portuguese or Polish « Other institutions that have also played this role – the Catholic Church, unions and political parties – have been weakened, leaving only schools, » he said

« Today, public schools cannot do this fully, » said M Obin said « But I don’t see any other model – in particular the Anglo-Saxon model of multiculturalism, which doesn’t seem to me to be more effective »

The French model ran into obstacles when immigrants were no longer Europeans, whites or Roman Catholics Today, around 10% of the French population is believed to be Muslim

The desire to assimilate risks generating a form of xenophobia within the general population, said Hakim El Karoui, principal researcher at the Parisian think tank Institut Montaigne

« The message is: ‘We don’t want your otherness because we want you to be like us, » he said

Children who do not assimilate – and often end up getting lost, feeling they belong neither to France nor to their ancestral countries – embody the doubt « that our model is not the right one », M El Karoui said, a possibility that the French « obviously find unbearable »

It was in schools that the children of immigrants learned not only correct French, but also how to politely address teachers like « Madame » or « Monsieur » They also absorbed notions like secularism in a country where, just like in the United States, ideals form the basis of the nation

At least on paper, M Anzorov seemed a good candidate to integrate into French society Russian of Chechen origin, he arrived in Paris at the age of 6 and entered a public primary school When he was about 10 years old his family moved to Évreux , a city in an economically disadvantaged area about 88 km west of Paris and home to some fifty Chechen families, according to Chechens living in the city

The Chechens remained largely isolated in Madeleine, a poor neighborhood with other immigrants, mostly from former French colonies and whose integration is often complicated by France’s colonial heritage

Mr. Anzorov attended a college called Pablo Neruda College which, in accordance with the national curriculum, also offered civic education courses on secularism and freedom of expression He lived in a five-story rent-subsidized building with his family, with a direct view of the local jail

« He always passed in front of my house on his way home », says Ruslan Ibragimov, 49, a Chechen who arrived in Évreux 18 years ago. « He was always alone, with his backpack Even when he saw me from away, he came to greet me He never spoke much « 

Never very interested in his studies, Mr. Anzorov was passionate about mixed martial arts, said 26-year-old Chechen who also practices the sport At the age of 16 in 2018, Mr. Anzorov lived for a while in Toulouse, where he had an uncle

There he joined a sports club that had a Chechen coach and a good reputation among athletes, the 26-year-old said, speaking on condition of anonymity as he said he feared reprisals against the Chechens

« His goal was to fight in UFC, » said the 26-year-old, referring to the Ultimate Fighting Championship, one of the main promoters of mixed martial arts

Located in a public facility, the club has been the subject of an investigation by local authorities as some members prayed in the locker rooms and asked women to cover their arms and legs, according to reports. French media

In a country guided by strict secularism, such actions constitute a violation of French law and are seen as signs of radicalization by the authorities – and they have led to the surveillance of many sports clubs

But it was unclear what influence, if any, the club had over M Anzorov, who was not on any terrorism watch list

Failed in Toulouse, M Anzorov returned to Évreux His father, specializing in the implementation of safety for construction sites and other businesses, encouraged his son to join him, Mr. Ibragimov said The father recently bought a car for his son, he added

« But he couldn’t drive it yet because he still hadn’t got his driver’s license, » Mr. Ibragimov said

It was only in recent months that the teenager had shown signs of radicalization, Special Counterterrorism Prosecutor Jean-François Ricard said.Anzorov’s transformation appears to have taken place online, analysis shows by the French news site Mediapart of a Twitter account he created in June and which was deleted last week after his death

His Twitter posts attacked a wide range of targets – from Jews to Christians to Saudi leaders

Monsieur Paty was teaching history and civic education in a college in Conflans-Sainte-Honorine, a bourgeois suburb of Paris, at the time of the attack

« He’s the kind of teacher who leaves his mark, by his gentleness and his open-mindedness, » said Maeva Latil, 21, who joined in a tribute in front of Jacques-Prévert college , in a small village south of Paris, where Mr. Paty taught between 2011 and 2018

In history lessons, he used contemporary examples – from Pink Floyd songs to a book about a footballer’s racism – to resonate his teaching with his students, said Aurélie Davoust, 43 , former professor of literature at Jacques-Prévert

« With him, there was really this aspect: you don’t study history to talk about dead things, you study history to become a citizen », she says

Mr. Paty firmly believed in secularism, the strict secularism that separates religion from the state in France SP Davoust recalled Mr. Paty once asked a young girl with a cross around her neck at school to take it off

« Our democracy was established against the Catholic Church and the monarchy, and secularism is the way democracy was organized in France, » said Dominique Schnapper, sociologist and president of the Council of the Sages, a group created by the government in 2018 to strengthen secularism in public schools

In a course on freedom of expression – including the right to say blasphemous things about all religions – M Paty used caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad, Jesus and rabbis to teach, former students said

After his transfer a few years ago to Conflans-Sainte-Honorine, in a Parisian suburb with a more diverse population, he seemed to adjust his approach.By showing caricatures, he started telling students who might be offended that they could leave the classroom or look away

In the new school, students said it mainly showed cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad published by Charlie Hebdo. One of two shown this month was titled « A Star Is Born » and depicted Muhammad fully naked. has upset many Muslim students and their parents, according to the local chapter of PEEP, a national association of parents of students

Mr. Paty said he was surprised by the negative reactions and apologized to the students, said Talia, a 13-year-old student who was in attendance at the conference.

« He told us that he was a teacher, that this class was part of his curriculum, that France is a secular country and our school too, » said Talia, who requested that she be identified by her first name, taking into account the sensitivity of the situation only

Angry father complained about professor in videos he uploaded to social media Enraged, Mr. Anzorov, the Chechen teenager, traveled all the way from Évreux to Conflans-Sainte-Honorine, nearly 60 miles, to kill Mr. Paty

« Has he never had hired teachers? » Or did he have them and he didn’t hear them? Mrs. Schnapper, the chairman of the Council of the Wise, said of M Anzorov’s years in French public schools « We’ll never know, But that’s a sign of failure »

France, Emmanuel Macron, Turkey

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