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A Teacher, His Killer and the Failure of French Integration

A Teacher, His Killer and the Failure of French Integration

ÉVREUX, France — They may have simply shared the identical classroom — the immigrant teenager and the veteran trainer recognized for his dedication to instilling the nation’s beliefs, in a relationship that had turned waves of newcomers into French residents.

But Abdoullakh Anzorov, 18, who grew up in France from age 6 and was the product of its public faculties, rejected these ideas in a horrific crime that shocked and enraged France. Offended by cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad proven in a category on free speech given by the trainer, Samuel Paty, 47, the teenager beheaded him a week ago with a protracted knife earlier than being gunned down by the police.

France has paid national homage to Mr. Paty as a result of the killing was seen as an assault on the very basis — the trainer, the general public faculty — of French citizenship. In the anger sweeping the nation, French leaders have promised to redouble their protection of a public academic system that performs a vital position in shaping nationwide identification.

The killing has underscored the growing challenges to that system as France grows extra racially and ethnically numerous. Two or three generations of newcomers have now struggled to combine into French society, the political institution agrees.

But the nation, broadly, has balked on the suggestion from critics, many within the Muslim neighborhood, that France’s mannequin of integration, together with its faculties, wants an replace or an overhaul.

President Emmanuel Macron’s emphatic protection of the caricatures has additionally led to ripples abroad. Several Muslim nations, together with Kuwait and Qatar, have begun boycotting French items in protest. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey questioned Mr. Macron’s psychological well being in a speech, prompting France to recall its ambassador to Turkey.

Mr. Anzorov was the most recent product of France’s public faculties to show in opposition to their beliefs: Two brothers who went to public faculties in 2015 attacked Charlie Hebdo, the satirical journal that revealed — and republished last month — caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad.

Jean-Pierre Obin, a former senior nationwide training official, mentioned that public faculties performed a number one position in “the cultural assimilation and political integration” of immigrant kids who “were turned into good little French” and now not felt “Italian, Spanish, Portuguese or Polish.” Other establishments that additionally performed this position — the Catholic church, unions and political events — have been weakened, leaving solely the faculties, he mentioned.

“Today, public schools can’t fully do this,” Mr. Obin said. “But I don’t see another model — especially the Anglo-Saxon model of multiculturalism, which I don’t think is more successful.”

The French mannequin bumped into obstacles when the immigrants had been now not European, white or Roman Catholic. Today about 10 p.c of France’s inhabitants is believed to be Muslim.

The push to assimilate dangers engendering a type of xenophobia within the broader inhabitants, mentioned Hakim El Karoui, a senior fellow on the Paris-based suppose tank Institut Montaigne.

“The message is: ‘We don’t want your otherness because we want you to be like us,’” he mentioned.

The kids who fail to assimilate — and sometimes find yourself misplaced, feeling that they belong to neither France nor their ancestral nations — embody the doubt “that our model is not the right one,” Mr. El Karoui mentioned, a chance that the French “obviously find unbearable.”

It was in faculties that immigrant kids discovered not solely correct French, but additionally methods to politely deal with academics as “Madame” or “Monsieur.” They additionally absorbed notions like secularism in a rustic the place, very similar to within the United States, beliefs kind the premise of nationhood.

At least on paper, Mr. Anzorov appeared a superb candidate to suit into French society. A Russian of Chechen descent, he arrived in Paris when he was 6 and entered a public major faculty. When he was about 10, his household moved to Évreux, a metropolis in an economically depressed space about 55 miles west of Paris and residential to about 50 Chechen households, in response to Chechens residing within the metropolis.

The Chechens largely stored to themselves in Madeleine, a poor neighborhood with different immigrants, who’re principally from former French colonies and whose integration is commonly difficult by France’s colonial legacy.

Mr. Anzorov attended a center faculty known as Collège Pablo Neruda that, hewing to the nationwide curriculum, additionally provided civics classes on secularism and freedom of expression. He lived in a rent-subsidized, five-story condominium constructing together with his household, with a direct view of the native jail.

“He always passed in front of my place when going home,” mentioned Ruslan Ibragimov, 49, a Chechen who arrived in Évreux 18 years in the past. “He was always alone, with his backpack. Even when he would see me from afar, he’d come over to greet me. He never talked much.”

Never a lot occupied with his research, Mr. Anzorov was enthusiastic about mixed-martial arts, mentioned a 26-year-old Chechen who additionally practices the game. When he was 16 in 2018, Mr. Anzorov lived for some time in Toulouse, the place he had an uncle.

There, he joined a sports activities membership that had a Chechen coach and a superb status amongst athletes, the 26-year-old mentioned, talking on the situation of anonymity as a result of he mentioned he feared reprisals in opposition to Chechens.

“His goal was to fight in the U.F.C.,” the 26-year-old mentioned, referring to the Ultimate Fighting Championship, a high promoter of blended martial arts.

Located in a public facility, the membership was investigated by the native authorities as a result of some members prayed within the locker room and requested girls to cowl their legs and arms, in response to the French information media.

In a rustic guided by strict secularism, such actions are a violation of French legislation and considered indicators of radicalization by the authorities — and so they have led to many sports activities golf equipment being positioned below surveillance.

But it was not recognized what, if any, affect the membership exerted on Mr. Anzorov, who had not been on any terrorism watch listing.

Unsuccessful in Toulouse, Mr. Anzorov got here again to Évreux. His father, who specialised in establishing safety for building websites and different companies, was encouraging his son to hitch him, Mr. Ibragimov mentioned. The father had lately purchased his son a automobile, he added.

“But he couldn’t drive it yet because he still hadn’t gotten his driver’s license,” Mr. Ibragimov mentioned.

It was solely in latest months that {the teenager} had proven indicators of radicalization, mentioned the particular antiterrorism prosecutor, Jean-François Ricard. Mr. Anzorov’s transformation appeared to have performed out on-line, in response to an evaluation by the French information web site Mediapart of a Twitter account that he created in June and that was deleted final week after his loss of life.

His posts on Twitter attacked a variety of targets — from Jews to Christians to the rulers of Saudi Arabia.

Mr. Paty was educating historical past and civics at a center faculty in Conflans-Sainte-Honorine, a middle-class Paris suburb, on the time of the assault.

“He is the kind of teacher who leaves his mark, by his gentleness and open-mindedness,” mentioned Maeva Latil, 21, who joined a tribute in entrance of the Jacques-Prévert center faculty, in a small village south of Paris, the place Mr. Paty taught between 2011 and 2018.

In historical past courses, he used modern examples — from Pink Floyd songs to a guide on racism by a soccer participant — to make his educating resonate together with his college students, mentioned Aurélie Davoust, 43, a former literature trainer 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 mentioned.

Mr. Paty was a powerful believer in laïcité, the strict secularism that separates faith from the state in France. Ms. Davoust recalled Mr. Paty as soon as asking a younger lady carrying a cross round her neck in class to take it off.

“Our democracy was established against the Catholic Church and the monarchy, and laïcité is the way that democracy was organized in France,” mentioned Dominique Schnapper, a sociologist and president of the Council of the Wise, a bunch created by the federal government in 2018 to bolster laïcité in public faculties.

In a category on freedom of expression — together with the proper to say blasphemous issues about all religions — Mr. Paty used caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad, Jesus and rabbis to show, former college students mentioned.

After his switch just a few years in the past to Conflans-Sainte-Honorine, in a Paris suburb with a extra numerous inhabitants, he appeared to regulate his method. When displaying caricatures, he started telling college students who could be offended that they may go away the classroom or look away.

At the brand new faculty, college students mentioned he confirmed principally caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad that had been revealed by Charlie Hebdo. One of the 2 proven this month was titled “A star is born” and depicted Muhammad absolutely nude. That upset many Muslim college students and their mother and father, in response to the native chapter of PEEP, a nationwide mother and father affiliation.

Mr. Paty mentioned he was shocked by the backlash and apologized to college students, mentioned Talia, a 13-year-old scholar who was current on the lecture.

“He told us that he’s a teacher, that this class is part of his program, that France is a secular country and so is our school,” mentioned Talia, who requested that she be recognized by her first identify solely given the sensitivity of the scenario.

One offended father complained in regards to the trainer in movies he uploaded on social media. Enraged, Mr. Anzorov, the Chechen teenager, traveled all the way in which from Évreux to Conflans-Sainte-Honorine, practically 60 miles, to kill Mr. Paty.

“Did he never have committed teachers? Or did he have them and he didn’t hear them?” Ms. Schnapper, the president of the Council of the Wise, said of Mr. Anzorov’s years in France’s public schools. “We’ll never know. But it’s a sign of failure.”

Antonella Francini contributed reporting.

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