The images appeared as French President Emmanuel Macron led a televised memorial service for Samuel Paty.
Rabat – Displays of Charlie Hebdo’s caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad appeared last week on local government buildings in Montpellier and Toulouse, two cities in France’s southern region of Occitanie.
Cartoons from six of the satirical magazine’s covers and a portrait of Samuel Paty, the history teacher who was murdered on October 16, were projected onto the town hall buildings.
Vice reported that the images appeared as French President Emmanuel Macron led a televised memorial service for the slain teacher on October 21.
“[Paty] was killed precisely because he incarnated the Republic,” Macron said. “He was killed because the Islamists want our future. They know that with quiet heroes like him, they will never have it.”
The images projected onto the government buildings included the Prophet Muhammad and other religious figures. One cartoon featured three rolls of toilet paper marked as the Bible, the Quran, and the Torah.
An 18-year-old Chechen refugee named Abdullakh Anzorov attacked Samuel Paty after the teacher displayed caricatures of the prophet during a class on freedom of speech. The parent of one of Paty’s students was angered by the lesson and called on the school’s administration to have the teacher fired.
Anzorov posted a photo of the teacher’s body on Twitter with a message saying that he avenged Paty’s insults to the Prophet Muhammad. Police who arrived at the scene of the crime shot Anzorov dead.
Although the projections of the Charlie Hebdo caricatures sought to commemorate Samuel Paty’s defense of free expression, many Muslims in France and around the world see the continued display of the offensive images as counterproductive.
The spokesman for Jordan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs Daifallah Al Fayez said the repeated use of the cartoons “represents an insult to the feelings of nearly 2 billion Muslims.”
The “repeated insults” to Islam and the prophet by continuously displaying the offensive cartoons prompted retail firms in Kuwait to pull French products from their shelves. The surge in Islamophobia and the French interior ministry’s crackdown on Islamic organizations also influenced the move.
Prior to the decision, a hashtag went viral on social media calling for a boycott of French products. The campaign quickly gained momentum, particularly in the Arab world.
The situation in France was already precarious after a stabbing attack near the former Charlie Hebdo office. In response to the act of terror, Macron vowed to fight “Islamist separatism” in France with new measures aimed at rooting out “radical Islam.” His remark that “Islam is in crisis worldwide” particularly angered Muslims.
After Paty’s beheading, tensions have reached a new high. Muslims and non-Muslims both condemned the horrific act, but Islamophobia and xenophobic rhetoric from citizens and politicians seek to further isolate France’s Muslim community.