France Shuts Paris Mosque that Shared Fatwa Call Against Beheaded Teacher

A woman holds a placard reading "History course for eveyone" and a man holds a French flag as they gather on Place de la Republique in Paris on October 18, 2020, in homage to history teacher Samuel Paty two days after he was beheaded by an attacker who was shot …
BERTRAND GUAY/AFP via Getty Images

France’s Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin announced the closure of the mosque that shared the fatwa video against Samuel Paty for showing Mohammed cartoons during a freedom of expression class, which inspired the beheading of the teacher by a Chechen refugee.

The Grand Mosque of Pantin mosque in the heavily-migrant populated Paris suburb of Seine-Saint-Denis will be closed for six months from Wednesday, amidst a wider crackdown on Islamism in France. Authorities have arrested more than 80 individuals who expressed support for the terrorist, with French President Emmanuel Macron pledging the disbanding of several Islamist organisations.

Brahim Chninam, whose 13-year-old daughter was in Mr Paty’s class, had allegedly recorded a video and shared it on social media, in which he called for a “mobilisation” against the teacher, a move later branded by Darmanin as a “fatwa”. The mosque shared the post, which revealed the teacher’s name and the details of the school in Conflans-Saint-Honorine. On Friday, 18-year-old Abdoulakh Anzorov beheaded the teacher before being shot dead by police.

“I asked the prefect of Seine-Saint-Denis to close the Pantin mosque in response to its leader sharing a message calling for the intimidation of a teacher and giving out the school’s address. The prefect signed the ban this evening,” the interior minister said, according to Le Figaro.

The mosque’s leader, M’hammed Henniche, later apologised for sharing the video and deleted it from the organisation’s Facebook page, claiming that he could not imagine after sharing it, it would inspire an Islamic extremist to kill Mr Paty. He claimed that he had seen the video from at least ten other sources, and that it was “viral in Muslim circles” and was being spread widely on WhatsApp.

According to Le Figaro, Henniche is the head of the Union of Muslim Associations of Seine-Saint-Denis and the Muslim Federation of Pantin, which brings together six Muslim associations in the commune of Pantin. The newspaper also claims that Henniche also knows radical Islamist Abdelhakim Sefrioui, though he told Libération that he had not been in contact with Sefrioui since 2012.

Sefrioui reportedly also made videos calling Paty a “thug” and has been known to French security services for years. French police have arrested both Chninam, the father of the pupil who launched the campaign against the deceased teacher, and Sefrioui.

The Grand Mosque of Pantin is currently located in a gymnasium, while construction on a new mosque has been halted due to delays caused by the coronavirus pandemic. Besides location, Henniche claimed that the profile of the mosque had “changed a lot”, with Libé reporting that in its previous location, it was known for attracting Salafists.

Its former leader, Imam Ibrahim Abou Talha, is still stationed at the old premises, with the Salafist preacher allegedly part of a network including Youssef Abou Anas, the former head of the mosque of Ecquevilly in Yvelines, which authorities closed in 2016 for radicalism.

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