Teacher's beheading: Muslim groups in S'pore condemn attack

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 Prophet Muhammad in class.

The organisations also called for an end to violence and terrorism in the name of religion, and said yesterday 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 Prophet Muhammad in a class on freedom of expression, which 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) in Singapore told The Straits Times yesterday that such a violent act is in contempt of the teachings of Islam, and 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: "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 extreme interpretations of beliefs can be detrimental to society.

"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 continue."

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 of the beheading in France broke, Mufti Nazirudin Mohd Nasir, Singapore's highest Islamic authority, expressed his shock and sadness over the incident.

In a post on the Facebook page of Muis, he said murder in 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," Dr Nazirudin said, calling on Muslims to stand firmly against all forms of violence and hate speech.

In France, the violent incident has prompted a government crackdown on radical Islam.

French police have reportedly carried out dozens of raids, while the government has ordered a 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 Prophet Muhammad since a trial started last month on the 2015 Charlie Hebdo killings in which 12 people, including cartoonists, were gunned down.

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

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 23, 2020, with the headline 'Teacher's beheading: Muslim groups in S'pore condemn attack'. Print Edition | Subscribe