Thursday’s three-man murder in southern France was considered by French officials to be a terrorist attack – and it appears to be related to the country’s ongoing controversy over showing the movies publicly Animation depicting the Prophet Muhammad of Islam and the government’s general approach to Islam.
Around 9 a.m. local time in Nice, an attacker used a knife to kill three people, two women and one man, at Notre Dame Cathedral. One of the women died inside the church, and so did the man; The second woman “ran away to a nearby bar but was seriously injured,” according to the AP.
Nice mayor, Christian Estrosi, told reporters he believes the attack was caused by an Islamic extremist. “He cried ̵6;Allah Akbar!’ Estrosi said many times, even after he was injured. (“Allahu akbar”, Arabic for “Great God”, is a common expression used by Muslims, especially during prayers.) “Without a doubt, meaning the meaning of his gesture, ”added Estrosi.
Currently the suspect has been in custody and hospitalized.
Two other incidents occurred on Thursday, the same day some Muslims observed Mawlid, a birthday celebration of the Prophet Muhammad. In Montfavet, also in southern France, a man was shot dead after threatening police with a pistol; In Saudi Arabia, a guard outside the French consulate in Jeddah was stabbed. The French embassy in Riyadh said in a statement the guard was hospitalized but his condition remained stable, and the suspect was arrested.
In response to the Nice attack and other incidents, the French government raised the national security warning to the highest level and increased the number of troops defending schools and religious sites from 3,000 to 7,000 people. French President Emmanuel Macron, after visiting the scene in Nice, delivered a clear message: “I say this with the utmost clarity – we will not yield to terrorism”.
Leaders in several Muslim-majority countries, including Saudi Arabia, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates, have condemned the Nice attack. “In any case, these attacks cannot be justified,” Egypt’s highest religious body, Al-Azhar, said in a tweet, calling them “incompatible with the doctrine of tolerance of Islam and all holy religions ”.
The Nice attack comes amid a broader debate in France over Islam and freedom of expression.
Earlier this month, an extremist Muslim suspect was suspected of beheading Samuel Paty, a 47-year-old high school teacher, as he walked home. A few days earlier, as part of a class discussion on freedom of expression, Paty showed the 12-14 year olds two caricatures of Muhammad published by satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo. – it was those images that inspired the murderous jihadists. 11 employees at the magazine and another six in Paris in 2015.
Police found a Twitter account allegedly owned by Paty’s attacker, which posted a picture of the severed head along with the message: “I executed one of the dogs from hell who dared to take down Muhammad.” .
Macron’s government has turned Paty into a free-speech hero. At a national memorial service for teachers killed last week, Macron said France “will continue the war for freedom” and “intensifies” efforts to end radical Islamism in the country. .
He also said France would continue to support anyone wanting to exhibit cartoons about Muhammad, noting his country’s deep secular culture. Macron’s goal, as he described, was to create a “Islam of France” that aimed to seamlessly integrate Muslims into French society.
Last week, French police raided homes across the country as part of an investigation into Paty’s murder. About 15 people have been arrested and 51 Muslim organizations are under investigation.
The consequences of Paty’s murder have sparked a heated debate in France about how to balance freedom of expression with respect for a religion. Nice’s attack will only add fuel to the fire.
“The purpose of terrorism is to shock, incite tension, and prevent this discussion,” said Charles Steelaut, a visiting fellow at the Washington Near East Policy Institute, a consulting organization based in Washington, DC, said.
Estrosi, the mayor of Nice, has called on the government to respond more harshly. “Enough is enough,” he said. “The time has come for France to exempt itself from applying peacetime laws to permanently destroy Islamic partialism from our territory.”
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