18 October 2020

Samuel

You must have heard about the killing of Samuel Paty on Friday in the northern suburbs of Paris, France. Aged 47 he was a teacher of history, geography and personal and social education. He was beheaded by a wicked  eighteen year old nutcase who probably saw himself as an Islamic soldier fighting the good fight on behalf of his religion.

It seems that Monsieur Paty had very legitimately devoted some teaching time to considering cartoon depictions of Mohammad and Allah. They were creatively  slid into a citizenship module for pupils to consider and debate.

An ignorant Muslim parent, whose daughter was not even present when this lesson happened, launched a social media campaign against Monsieur Paty - even naming him and the school's location. The killer must have encountered this toxic stuff and headed to Conflans-Sainte-Honorine to mete out what he misguidedly saw as revenge.

In my way of looking at things, Samuel Paty represented  light, freedom and truth but his cruel killer belonged to darkness, ignorance and misunderstanding. 

You might quietly be thinking that Samuel Paty was partly the architect of his own death. Perhaps he should not have brought attention to the cartoons. Perhaps he should have avoided any reference to Islamic fundamentalism and the arrogant bigotry that clings to it like an infected rash. But keeping quiet and saying nothing is surely a form of submission. - giving in to the forces of darkness. That cannot be right in free societies.

In memory of Samuel Paty with love. Liberté, égalité, fraternité! May he rest in peace and may his legacy be one of courage, togetherness and illumination. 

50 comments:

  1. May he rest in peace.

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  2. I hope the parent is prosecuted for insightment

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    1. If the parent had had "insight" there'd be no need to prosecute for "incitement" [to violence].

      U

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    2. The parent's ignorant vindictiveness indeed deserves a tough response from the forces of law.

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    3. I stand corrected by you as always Ursula

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  3. I read about this. What a horrible thing to happen. I agree with John, the parent should be prosecuted for incitement.

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    1. Prosecution? Maybe. I dare say that that parent will live with the burden of their conscience for the rest of their life. Unless, of course, they don't have one [conscience that is].

      U

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    2. I may be incorrect, Ursula, but given the views on what he did the parent may well be rejoicing.

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    3. Let him rejoice in a prison cell. He might as well have been holding that large knife/sword himself.

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  4. It is a terrible tragedy caused by blind ignorance. The teacher Samuel Paty made a brave decision which was to cost him his life at the hands of someone who saw life in a completely different way.

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    1. You have summed it up perfectly Thelma.

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  5. Yes, YP, I picked up on that dreadful happening, and in detail. As an aside, and if it's in bad taste I offer my apologies in advance: I wish, if people really do have to kill, they'd not choose beheading.

    Over time I have become weary over how some minds work. Not even necessarily warped minds. Worse, closed minds. I was brought up in the spirit of free speech, as uncomfortable and even confrontational as it may be at times. And yet, as time marches on, and in recent years, I think twice before I say anything, in public, potentially controversial. There is only one person who I voice my thinking to on any subject, unpoliced, unfiltered, unedited, raw, the only person I trust to take it how it's meant and expect an honest feedback, no barrels held, and that is . . . Yes, you guessed right first time.

    Otherwise? Otherwise, and call me a coward, there are risks in the public arena (social media) I am not willing to take any more. Not least because my son warned me years ago that "there are nutters out there". Be they on an actual street or the internet. People with whom you can't reason.

    You say " . . . keeping quiet and saying nothing is surely a form of submission. - giving in to the forces of darkness. That cannot be right in free societies." Yes, and no. Sometimes keeping your thoughts to yourself is a form of self preservation. Having said that, in real life, I'd risk my own to physically come to someone's defence. Or to stop books being burned. Remember?

    One last thought: Can you imagine who you, a parent, must feel if your offspring went around chopping people's heads off? "Where did I go wrong" springs to mind. Or, alternatively, they are proud because the apple didn't fall off far away.

    U

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    1. Should life in the so-called free world be about "self-preservation"? Monsieur Paty was himself a soldier, fighting for truth and understanding. If he had been a Maths or a Science teacher, he would not have been digging into the muck heap of bigotry. His subjects led to his death. We must not allow the books to be burned again. Peeping nervously out from gaps in our curtains is not the way forward.

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  6. The trouble it that this will now make some, perhaps many teachers even more circumspect. Topics with even slender bearing upon any kind of exploitation, prejudice, discrimination or coercion have become difficult to broach. Paty was uncompromising and brave, especially in light of what has happened in recent times in Paris.

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    1. I fear that your prediction is a true one. Maybe all teachers should stick to Maths. Uninteresting but hardly controversial. Who can object to a quadratic equation? "Brave" should be on Samuel Paty's gravestone... or more likely "Courageux".

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    2. Quadratic equations uninteresting? uncontroversial? Cannot object to them? You should meet some of the people I used to work with.

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    3. Now I come to think about it, quadratic equations did cause my blood to boil when I was a schoolboy. They were so damned boring! What an utter waste of my brain power.

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    4. I most certainly wouldn't call Maths "boring". Quite the opposite. The DRAMA. As was played out in my classroom, mid to late teens. My teacher, he was short, round and had a glass eye, bouncing up and down the blackboard. Chalk making that awful noise that only a dentist's drill can match. Such enthusiasm. Such disdain for his audience.

      There was no love lost between him and me. Which, as even my head mistress conceded, was entirely because he took an almost violent dislike to me first time I entered his classroom. New school. Mid term. Mid lesson. All eyes on me.

      When we were set tests we had to explain how we arrived at the solution. Solution? What solution? Shoot me now. We are talking higher Maths here. Having to reason why, maybe, there wasn't a solution was my favourite part. I wrote him a story. Some days later, on returning our papers, marked in red ink on the margin, I'd get sarky remarks back like: "How moving" And off he went to condemn me to the antechamber of Vector. Still, credit where it's due: In the end, in the marking, he was my nemesis. And everyone knew it. And no one did anything about it.

      U

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    5. A book to enjoy if you like real stories - Ian Stewart's *Significant Figures - Lives and Works of Trailblazing Mathematicians* (2018) by a prolific author who is Mathematics Professor Emeritus at the University of Warwick.

      There are 25 chapters (each one headed by a visual portrait) on Archimedes, Lui Hui and Isaac Newton as well as Emmy Noether, Ramanujan, Kurt Godel and Alan Turing. Chapter three features Muhammad Al-Khwarizmi, born in present day Uzbekistan in 780, credited with the invention of algebra.

      Try also *The Master Algorithm - How the Quest for the Ultimate Learning Machine Will Remake Our World* by Pedro Domingos, Professor of Computer Science at the University of Washington. Both available in paperback.

      *Mathematical Finance: A Very Short Introduction* (Oxford) by Mark H Davis was way over my head with its focus on stochastic analysis (probability theory) of markets. It is good to possess books we can never grasp. Stephen Hawking's *God Created the Integers* is one such book, though I enjoy his short narrative on the Mathematical Greats.

      The film on Srinivasa Ramanujan with Jeremy Irons was enjoyable, but the script suggested Ramanujan got his ideas from God, when in truth he was not very religious. It is on DVD.

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  7. Hear hear but I worry as Tasker does.

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    1. If you worry as Tasker does you may need some pills.

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  8. I've read many different accounts of what happened, and although I certainly agree that Monsieur Paty didn't deserve to be killed (need I even say that?) it DOES sound like his presentation of the material may have been questionable. I think he could have discussed the cartoon without showing it, especially given that he teaches many Muslim students. I also read that he asked Muslim students to leave the room first, in an effort not to offend them -- although I think that account comes partly from the parent in question -- and that seems dubious to me, however well-intentioned.

    I'm all for freedom of speech, especially in a class devoted to that subject (as I believe his was), but there has to be a balance with sensitivity. I think the facts are still coming out but based on what I've read so far, it does sound like Paty made some unwise decisions.

    Having said that, his attacker is unquestionably a fanatic and deserves prosecution to the fullest.

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    1. He has already received prosecution to the fullest Steve. The French police shot him down dead. If it is true that Muslim students were given permission to leave the room if they wanted to, where exactly were they supposed to go? Schools do not operate in that way so I agree with you that this probably came from the bigoted father. Hindsight may suggest to us that Monsieur Paty made some unwise or provocative choices but that is not a reason for him quite literally losing his head.

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    2. Oh, right. I forgot they shot him!

      I think it will be interesting to read a more comprehensive account of this event when all the details emerge.

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  9. Many of us wept when we heard of Samuel Paty's savage murder. Teaching is harder today than ever because teachers have to deal with social problems; schools bear the burden of our social and economic upheavals. Now a dedicated teacher lies dead.

    You have to understand how radicalisation works. Everyone, please read Ed Husain's book *The Islamist*. Ed's decent Muslim parents, who loved secular British values, were horrified when he got involved with Salafists. The author shows how the Wahhabist mosques brainwash young alienated Muslim men. Samuel's killer was an 18 year old immigrant from Chechnya.

    Was it unwise as well as insensitive to reprint the 2015 Charlie Hebdo cartoons, which originally appeared in Denmark? I think it was unwise and foolish.

    Satire has an honourable tradition of exposing hypocrisy in high places, and mocking the powerful. The Hebdo cartoons ridiculed Islam for no good reason, and hurt French Muslims, many of whom are poor and have little or no say in their society.

    The week after the 2015 murders, Charlie Hebdo printed a cartoon of a young Muslim woman praying for those who had been murdered; above her head there was a depiction of the Prophet looking down on the girl, with an erection. I was offended by this piece of juvenile pornography.

    We need to respect faith just as those with faith need to respect secular society. The Dutch allowed Jews the freedom to worship when Medieval Catholic Spain expelled them. Spinoza, an agnostic, had the freedom to think and write in Holland.

    In his recent book *The House of Islam* Ed Hussain recounts the story of a Bedouin, perhaps drunk or mad, who openly urinated in the holy mosque. In the midst of the uproar Mohammed appeared, called for water and a cloth, and wiped the floor clean himself. The Prophet then forgave the Bedouin who caused the offence.



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    1. In the minds of fanatics or bigots who have never properly studied their own religion, there doesn't seem to be much forgiveness around. Not tackling conditions means they will probably fester away.

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    2. I have a ten volume 1920s children's encyclopedia - Arthur Mee's - which contains an image of ‘Mohammed Dictating The Koran'. No satire, simply an illustration, along with illustrations depicting other religions. It is for children. It was proscribed in the Kashmir in 1973 following riots protesting against its sale. Two Western hippies with the misfortune to be in the wrong place at the wrong time were only just saved from being murdered by the mob by the arrival of the police. Was it only about religion or was something else mixed in with it?

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    3. If I can quote from the closing pages (283-284) of my paperback edition of Ed Husain's book *The House of Islam*, first published 2018:

      For how much longer will we blame the West and take comfort in conspiracy theories? Expelling extremists is fully within Muslim control. When the Wahhabi sect first came into being in the 18th Century, Suleiman Abd al-Wahab, the qadi of Mecca who was the brother of the founder of the sect, kept Salafi-jihadis out of the city. In India, Muslim scholars have issued a fatwa against the Taliban, al-Qaeda and ISIS, ruling that they are *not Islamic organisations* ... The House of Islam is on fire. Anger and hate are fanning the flames from room to room. We must act before it suffocates us.



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  10. Forgiving the unforgivable: Colleen Haggerty at TEDxBellingham.
    YouTube. November 23, 2013. TEDxTalks.

    The work of Bishop Desmond Tutu, and many others in South Africa, was exemplary.
    An open admission of terrible wrongs and injustices, dialogue, empathy, inner healing, forgiveness. Martin Buber spoke of this often.

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  11. Religion. Why do we need it?

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    1. My thought entirely though I often hesitate to say it for fear of being branded "intolerant".

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    2. Nothing intolerant about asking *Religion. Why do we need it?* as Ms. Moon does.
      Sam Harris, a neuroscientist who practises Mindfulness meditation, does not think religion should be given any special or sentimental status. He is right. That many churches do much good in the community does not prove God exists.
      A nondogmatic religious outlook is attractive to many people.

      Look at YouTube videos on the late John Mack. He nearly lost his job at Harvard. He said that people who claimed they had been abducted by aliens were not suffering from any mental disorder. After eight years he came to believe their claims. This led him to a Jungian view of reality. He went to Tibet.

      Don Cupitt holds to faith without God, the Sea of Faith movement. Richard Holloway (YouTube) talks about the universe becoming aware of itself through our human consciousness. Neuro-cognitive science about which Daniel Dennett speaks (YouTube) is only 20 years old. It has much to say on near death experiences. Karen Armstrong is a must-read author on religious debate.



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  12. I like your comparison. Some people would think that Paty was actually teaching the concept rather that trying kids to evaluate and express an opinion. We could do more to get people to have an open mind on various topics and then there are people who are completely nuts.

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    1. It seems that in Islam having an open mind is way, way down the agenda.

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    2. Because we live in a multi-cultural, multi-faith society, it is our responsibility to understand Islam even if we profess a dislike of the religious mindset. Again, if I may quote from The House of Islam (page 150) by Ed Husein:

      *Jihadis frequently cite the importance and significance of jihad in the life of the Prophet Mohamed, but theirs is a fundamental rejection of the Prophet's priorities and also of the nature of his struggle. His was not jihadism, the killing and raping of innocents, or declaring believers to be disbelievers, in the total absence of compassion and mercy. He was fighting back after a decade of torture, expulsion, persecution, boycott and violence in Mecca.*

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  13. This has nothing to do with your current post topic. I was wondering if you have any idea why Ian, our shooting parrots friend, has not posted anything new on his blog since May? I hope he is well.

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    1. I don't know Bob. I drifted away from Ian's blog before that happened.

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  14. Such a tragedy. I see your humor in comments on other blogs so decided to visit you at home. No humor here. Just the ache of our common humanity and respect for one teacher's courage. Thank you for writing as you have.

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    1. Thanks for calling by 37P. Humour is a healthy thing but sometimes it is most inappropriate.

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  15. Great post and great comments YP. I don't think any true believer would kill anybody. I hope they some peace prize after the teacher.

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  16. I hope name some peace prize after the teacher.

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    1. It would indeed be good if some good could emerge from this horror.

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  17. I really can't imagine what was going through the mind of that kid and who would ever have thought teaching would become a death sentence?

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    1. Perhaps he saw Allah. Six years ago a respected teacher in Leeds was murdered in front of her class. Rest in peace Ann Maguire.

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    2. Ann Maguire (61) from Leeds was by all accounts a great teacher, and a beloved wife and mother. She was stabbed seven times by a boy of 15 years who showed no remorse.

      Mr. Justice Coulson lifted the restrictions on naming William Cornick as Ann's killer. Cornick's defence said naming him was illegal under the European Convention on Human Rights, but Justice Coulson said an exception could be made. Cornick was sentenced to a minimum of 20 years.

      The grief of Anne's family and colleagues will never go away. The whole school was traumatised.

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