Egypt’s Mufti Warns Against Islamophobia After Paris Attack

The attack in Paris was a “criminal act by an extremist,” Allam said.

Rabat – Egypt’s Mufti Shawki Allam today called the brutal attack in Paris on Friday an act of terrorism and urged French authorities not to blame Islam. The Egyptian mufti stressed that the shocking brutality of Friday’s event is totally rejected by Islam. The religious leader stated the attack was a terrorist act and a crime with no justification.

Mufti condemns attack

Amid growing Islamophobia in France, Friday’s shocking decapitation of 47-year old history teacher Samuel Paty is raising already problematic tensions. In his remarks, Egypt’s mufti expressed concerns that the attack would lead to further repression against Francee’ss Muslim minority.. “It would be wise to deal with this issue as an individual crime in order not to spread hatred against Muslims,” Allam said.

Mufti Allam asked French Predident Emmanuel Macron and his government to not see the event as originating from the Muslim community, or Islam itself. The attack in Paris was a “criminal act by an extremist,” Allam said. He stated that Islam teaches “wisdom and good instruction” and does not allow “murder and bloodshed as is being done by extremists and terrorists.”

Allam’s remarks come one week after his response to Emannuel Macron’s speech about reforming Islam. “’Islam is a religion that is in crisis all over the world today,” the French president had said. In response, Allam expressed sadness seeing Islam conflated with terrorism. He urged for a better udnerstanding of the teachings of Islam which he stated provides “mercy and grace” to many.

Following Friday’s brutal attack in Paris, Emmannuel Macron framed the terrorist act as part of an “existential” battle against forces that “threaten French values and our way of life.” He visited the Paris suburb where the attack happened and stated that the 18-year old Chechzen who committed the gruesome act had attacked “the Republic and its values.”

The attack

The victim of the attack, Samuel Paty, was a teacher who taught history, geography as well as moral and civil education courses. While teaching about freedom of speech he had shown a classroom of 12-to-14 year olds the caricatures of the Islamic Prophet Muhammad published by Charlie Hebdo. 

The display of the controversial images prompted complaints from parents and one family subsequently lodged a legal complaint against Paty. The case became a public affair after one parent complained about Paty’s showing of the caricatures; another parent defended the teacher’s method, saying that he was doing his duty of acquainting his students with critical thinking skills. According to reports, the teacher had respectfully offered Muslim students to temporarily leave the classroom while he displayed the caricatures. 

On Friday, an 18-year old Moscow-born Chechen man brutally attacked and decapitated the teacher. His body was found outside a school in the suburb at 5pm on Friday. The young man then shared photos of the attack on social media. Paty’s attacker was deemed “a complete unknown” by French intelligence but had a history of petty crimes, according to the Guardian.. 

Police chased the suspect who refused to surrender and threatened police officers. Local police shot the man who died on the spot. On Friday night nine others were arrested, including at least one student of Paty’s as well as the student’s parents.

The attack on a teacher and the brutality of the event are likely to further fuel France’s long-simmering Islamophobia. Amid the prevailing unease, Education minister Jean-Michel Blanquer has called for French “unity and firmness” against what he described as the “monstrosity of Islamic terrorism.” Meanwhile, French anti-terror units are treating the Paris attack as a “assassination in connection with a terrorist organization.”

Read also: Western Sahara: Beyond Polisario’s Frustration with UN Efforts