(JTA) — French Jewish groups have called on their supporters to join a rally Sunday in memory of the schoolteacher murdered Friday after facing criticism for showing caricatures of the Islamic prophet Muhammad to his students.
The rally in memory of Samuel Paty, who was decapitated outside the school where he worked by an 18-year-old refugee from Chechnya who appeared to have been motivated by videos on social media, is focused on safeguarding freedom of expression. But the Jewish groups say it should also call attention to the threat of Islamic terrorism in France.
CRIF, the umbrella organization of French Jewish communities, called on its followers to show up for the rally in Paris’ Republique Square, citing the “escalating nature of Islamist attacks.” So did the National Bureau of Vigilance Against Anti-Semitism .
“Islamist horror and Islamist terror have hit France again,” said the anti-Semitism watchdog group’s statement, which called for the expulsion of Islamist terrorism suspects from France. “It is time to take real action to eradicate this danger that comes from within.”
Multiple French Muslim groups have condemned the attack, which came weeks after Paty showed his students cartoons that had appeared in Charlie Hebdo, the satirical magazine targeted in a 2015 terror attack, as part of a lesson about free speech. The parent of a student in the class became incensed by Paty’s use of the images, which included a depiction of Muhammad, and waged a campaign against him both at his school and online, where videos criticizing the teacher spread widely.
Abdoullakh Abouyezidovitch Anzorov, who arrived in France with his family when he was 6 years old, traveled to Paty’s school and asked students exiting on Friday to identify the teacher. After decapitating Paty, the teenager posted a video online and and shouted “Allah is the greatest” while brandishing the knife at police, who then shot him dead, French officials said during a press conference Saturday.
Police in France have arrested several people in connection with the murder, including Abdelhakim Sefrioui, an imam who has long agitated against Israel and against other Muslim leaders who have spoken out against radicalism or tried to foster dialogue with French Jews. Sefrioui had accompanied the father who originally posted the videos criticizing Paty to his school; the father is also in custody.
The attack is only the latest connected to the Charlie Hebdo attack, in which Islamists murdered 12 people in the magazine’s Paris offices. An accomplice killed four Jews at a kosher supermarket two days later. Alleged accomplices of the killers in both attacks are on trial in Paris.
Last month, an attacker stabbed multiple people on the Paris street where Charlie Hebdo had been located, prompting French officials to deploy armed guards to protect Jews in synagogues on Yom Kippur. “Jews in particular are the target of Islamist attacks,” a top French official said at the time.