Muslim groups in S'pore condemn violent attack on teacher in France, call for end to violence in name of religion

French teacher Samuel Paty was violently beheaded by Abdullakh Anzorov in a suburb north of Paris. PHOTO: AFP

SINGAPORE - Muslim organisations here, including the Islamic Religious Council of Singapore (Muis), have condemned the beheading of a teacher in France after he showed caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad in class.

The organisations also called for an end for violence and terrorism in the name of religion, and said on Thursday (Oct 22) that such acts run counter to the values of Islam.

Last Friday, 47-year-old history teacher Samuel Paty was violently beheaded by 18-year-old Abdullakh Anzorov in a suburb north of Paris.

Anzorov, originally from the Russian region of Chechnya, was later shot dead by the police.

Mr Paty had shown caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad in a class on freedom of expression, which had incited anger among some Muslim families.

A photo of Mr Paty and a message claiming responsibility for his murder were found on Anzorov's cellphone. He had also tweeted images of the teacher's dead body.

A spokesman for the Religious Rehabilitation Group (RRG) told The Straits Times on Thursday that such a violent act is in contempt of the teachings of Islam, and that such crimes are a serious setback to interfaith harmony that the global community strives towards.

Launched in 2003, the RRG is a non-profit group that trains religious teachers to counsel those influenced or misguided by radical teachings.

Said the spokesman: "This atrocity also plays into the hands of the extremists, as they always desire such violence to be glorified and the perpetrators to be hailed as martyrs.

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"All acts of indiscriminate violence and terrorism cannot hide behind any religion or belief, for all faith teaches us to respect the other and to preserve humanity."

This sentiment was echoed by non-profit group AMP Singapore, formerly known as the Association of Muslim Professionals. It said that extreme interpretations of any set of beliefs can be detrimental to society, and upheld laws here that serve to preserve racial and religious harmony.

"In a world where differing views are easily consumed by Singaporeans, it can get us divided as a nation. Frank and respectful discussions on sensitive issues such as religion must also continue," said AMP.

It added that Singapore must contextualise how its unique multiculturalism requires social norms and laws suited to maintain its racial and religious harmony.

The Singapore Muslim Women's Association emphasised the importance of safeguarding the social cohesion that Singapore has built, adding that it hopes the incident in France will remind Singaporeans not to take this for granted.

The day after news broke about the beheading in France, Mufti Dr Nazirudin Mohd Nasir, who is the highest authority on Islam here, had expressed his shock and sadness about the violent incident.

In a post on the Facebook page of Muis, Dr Nazirudin said that murder in the Prophet Muhammad's name is "the most heinous of crimes", and that such acts are inexcusable.

"All it does is to breed further contempt and division, forcing Muslim communities to be on the defensive, and putting at risk the hard work of so many peace-loving Muslim communities around the world," he said, calling on Muslims to stand firmly against all forms of violence and hate speech.

In France, last week's attack has prompted a government crackdown on radical Islam. Seven people, including two students, will appear before an anti-terror judge for a decision on criminal charges over Mr Paty's killing, according to reports.

French police have reportedly carried out dozens of raids since the killing, while the government ordered the six-month closure of a mosque outside Paris and plans to dissolve a group it said supported Palestinian militant group Hamas.

Mr Paty's beheading was the second knife attack in the name of avenging the Prophet Muhammad since a trial started last month over the Charlie Hebdo killings in 2015 when 12 people, including cartoonists, were gunned down.

In September, a man armed with a meat cleaver stabbed two people outside the former Paris offices of Charlie Hebdo.

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