A teacher in the Netherlands has been forced into hiding after some students objected to a political cartoon concerning Islam displayed in his classroom.
Rotterdam police said on Friday they had arrested an 18-year-old girl on suspicion she posted a message on social media that “incited others to commit crimes” directed at the teacher and the Emmauscollege high school.
The incident took place just two weeks after French history Samuel Paty was beheaded on Oct. 16 in broad daylight outside his school by a teenage Chechen refugee, after he used the caricatures of Prophet Muhammad in a class on freedom of expression.
People look at flowers laid in homage to slain history teacher Samuel Paty, outside the Bois d’Aulne secondary school, in Conflans-Sainte-Honorine, northwest of Paris, on Oct. 19, 2020. (Anne-Christine Poujoulat/AFP via Getty Images)
During a classroom discussion at the school on Monday, students noticed a satirical cartoon that had been hanging on a bulletin board for years, and some took offense.
The cartoon, titled “Immortal,” shows a decapitated figure labeled “Charlie Hebdo” sticking its tongue out at a bearded man with a bloody sword.
It was drawn in the aftermath of the 2015 terrorist attack on the editorial offices of French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, which had angered Muslims by publishing caricatures of Prophet Muhammad. Twelve people were killed in that attack.
A woman walks past a painting by French street artist and painter Christian Guemy in tribute to members of Charlie Hebdo newspaper who were killed by jihadist gunmen in January 2015, in Paris, on Aug. 31, 2020. (Thomas Coex/AFP via Getty Images)
A photo of the image quickly began circulating on social media, and on Tuesday the teacher who had led the discussion went into hiding. Police said the teacher had been threatened and that they were treating the case “extremely seriously.”
“The fact that at this moment teachers are being threatened because they paid attention in their lessons to the discussion around cartoons is absurd and we must not tolerate it,” Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said on Friday.
Mark Rutte, Prime Minister of the Netherlands, talks during a media conference at the Federal Chancellery in Berlin on July 9, 2020. Rutte said Friday, Nov. 6, 2020 that threats that forced a teacher in the port city of Rotterdam to go hiding after some students objected to a political cartoon displayed in his classroom must not be tolerated. Rutte spoke Friday hours after Rotterdam police said they had arrested an 18-year-old girl. (Bernd von Jutrczenka/Pool via AP)
“We must be able to discuss topics such as freedom of expression in our classrooms without any outside pressure,” he told reporters. “It may hurt when someone has an opinion that conflicts with your worldview or religious conviction, but they have a right to say so in all liberty.”
In a statement posted on its website Friday, the Rotterdam school said it is “completely unacceptable that a discussion between teachers and students is hijacked by people from outside who use this to make unfounded threats.”
Also on Tuesday, Le Monde reported that a school in a Paris suburb was closed after threats against a teacher.