On October 16, 2020, Samuel Paty, a teacher at a French high school, was beheaded by a young Muslim man after showing a picture of Mohammad to his class. Liam Duffy observes that, on the two-year anniversary of the murder, prominent French newspapers of the left, right, and center lamented the fact that little seems to have changed. As Duffy explains, they had a specific reason for their pessimism:
[J]ust days before the anniversary, a schoolteacher was forced into police protection after receiving death threats and anti-Semitic abuse in a letter promising the same fate as Paty. Another teacher was threatened by the relative of a pupil for merely discussing the Charlie Hebdo cartoons in class.
Far from being deterred by the knowledge of Paty’s fate, campaigns and threats against educators have continued unabated in the two years since, and in some cases have crossed the Channel.
There’s a sense that schoolteachers are on the frontlines in the defense of republican principles, [what in the U.S. would be called democratic values], which is under assault from the religious right (Catholic or Islamist) and the identity-obsessed left. But it is France’s Islamist scene that clearly sees the classroom as a frontline. A confidential government report recently sounded the alarm that Islamist “influencers” have been waging an online offensive to destabilize institutions and undermine laïcité (official secularism) in the school. Large accounts on mainstream social-media platforms encourage young people to confront staff on matters of religious contention, to pressure other students, and deliberately to violate school rules on dress code and religious attire.