On Friday, a French schoolteacher named Samuel Paty was brutally decapitated by an 18-year-old assailiant outside his workplace, a brutal murder that has been confirmed as a terror attack, possibly inspired by a fatwa issued by a French cleric.
French authorities have determined all this, and more, as French President Emmanuel Macron launches an unprecedented crackdown on terror networks in the country with a focus on "political" organizations that officials fear function as fronts, or gateways, for terror recruits plotting acts of violence. Over the weekend, police arrested 11 people, including 4 relatives of the attacker, 18-year-old Abdoullakh Abouyezidovitch Anzorov, who is a migrant from Chechnya living in France.
Anzorov used the large knife to decapitate the teacher, who was targeted after students complained about him showing cartoons from Charlie Hebdo allegedly depicting the Prophet Mohammad, an act considered blasphemy in the religion of Islam.
As we explained over the weekend, police are also looking into what role, if any, social media played in the attack, as a parent of one of Paty's students is suspected of "doxxing" the teacher in a Facebook post urging Muslim parents to demand that Paty be fired from the school in the Parisian suburb of Conflans-Sainte-Honorine. After complaining to the headmaster, the parent posted three videos calling on parents to take action.
The attack has galvanized French politicians from across the political spectrum to demand that the government do more, while centrists and those on the right have attacked progressive sensitivities that they fear impede the ability to hold terrorists accountable. At one point, Macro sounded like former American president George W Bush, promising that "fear" would soon "change sides" as French police seek to disrupt terror cells in the country.
"Islamists should not be able to sleep easy in our country," Mr Macron said after an emergency inner cabinet meeting at the Elysée Palace on Sunday with Jean Castex, the prime minister, and Jean-François Ricard, the anti-terrorism prosecutor. "Fear is going to change sides."
France's Interior Minister said he would push for a ban on any Islamic "organizations" that support the establishment of "Sharia Law" in France.
Gérald Darmanin, interior minister, said on Monday he would propose a ban on several organisations deemed "separatist" for seeking to bypass the secular institutions of the French republic, including the Collective against Islamophobia in France (CCIF), and a humanitarian aid group called BarakaCity.
"You can see how political Islam combines with radical Islam and so eventually leads to terrorism," Mr Darmanin said on Europe 1 radio.
“We must fight political Islam with the same determination as we fight terrorism.” He said 51 organisations would be inspected by the state this week. Mr Macron, who had already announced tighter controls on Islamist radicals in a speech at the start of the month, is now under pressure from politicians from left to right to take an even harder line against militants.
Even the cryptocommunist Jean-Luc Mélenchon didn't hold back.
Even Jean-Luc Mélenchon, the head of the extreme-left La France Insoumise (France Unbowed) party, who has himself been criticised by the right as "Islamo-leftist," condemned “Islamist terrorism” and suggested targeting the Chechen immigrant community.
Police appear to be nearing a determination of a motive in the attack: they suspect that a French extremist cleric named Abdelhakim Sefrioui issued a "fatwa" against Paty after visiting the school with the father of a pupil who was referenced above. Both of these men are among the 11 who have been arrested so far in the case.