Timeline: Paris Attacks 2020

France’s secular laws have found themselves once again under the global eye as they’ve come into clash with it’s 5.7 million Muslim residents–the largest population in Europe. In 2015, satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo was the target of a grisly attack, claiming 17 lives total.

Just weeks after the trial of the attack, another incident made international headlines. Schoolteacher Samuel Paty was beheaded in response to his sharing of the Charlie Hebdo cartoons in one of his classes. International response has mirrored that of its 2015 predecessor–countries are split between defending free speech, on the one hand, and doubling down to criticize what they see as the “Islamophobic” attack on minorities, on the other.

The response encapsulates the very question under scrutiny around the world, particularly in proudly secular France: at what point is free speech offensive enough to be limited, and at what point does catering to religious sensibilities amount to censorship? Indeed, can secular values and religious ones coexist, and if so, to what extent?

In the wake of blasphemy accusations across the Muslim world, the positions various parties have taken on this question are nothing if not polarizing.


September 1, 2020

Charlie Hebdo reprints Muhammad cartoons

Trail of alleged accomplices to the 2015 Charlie Hebdo massacre set to begin.
Magazine reprints Muhammad cartoons on front page: “We will never lie down. We will never give up.” (source)

September 1, 2020

September 2-6, 2020

Trial of murders opens; condemnations of cartoon reprints begin

Trial of 2015 Charlie Hebdo attack opens. 
Accomplices trial focuses on accessories who face up to 20 years in prison for providing cash, weapons, vehicles, and other aid to main perpetrators, who were killed in a shootout by police following the 2015 attack. Three accessories, having fled to the Levant (with two possibly deceased), are tried in absentia. (source)

Turkey and Pakistan condemn Muhammad cartoon reprint. (source)

Al-Azhar: reprint “inflames the emotions of faithful followers of religions.” (source)

Turkish justice minister: reprint is a “dirty provocation.” (source)

September 2-6, 2020

September 4-10, 2020

Protests of cartoon reprints, more condemnations from Muslim world

Protests in Pakistan: The Islamist Tehreek-e-Laibak Pakistan (TLP) party organizes a rally in Karachi, others take place in Rawalpindi, Peshawar, Lahore and Dera Ismail Khan. Thousands gather, proclamations include “death to France” and “Decapitation is the punishment of blasphemers.” Karachi TLP district leader: “It amounts to big terrorism.” (source)

Iran foreign ministry: reprint is a “provocative” action. (source)

Top Khomeini advisor: reprints part of “plots by the West” “aimed at countering the promotion of Islamic culture.” (source)

Muslim World League: reprints are “provocative” and a “deliberate act to offend 1.8 billion.” (source)

Khomeini: reprint is an “unforgivable sin” Islamic nations “should never forget.” (source)

Thousands demonstrate in Iran “voicing outrage” at reprint. (source)

September 4-10, 2020

September 11, 2020

Al-Qaeda issues threat

Al-Qaeda issues new threat to Charlie Hebdo on 9/11 anniversary: 2015 attack will not be “one off” incident. (source)

September 11, 2020

September 22, 2020

Charlie Hebdo staffer threatened

Charlie Hebdo HR head enters hiding after “precise and detailed threats.” (source)

September 22, 2020

September 25, 2020

Attack at former Charlie Hebdo office

Two hacked with meat cleaver. The attacker, Ali Hassan, an Pakistani immigrant, admitted religious motivation behind the attack. He was not on any terror watchlist. (source)

Prior to the attack, Hassan posts a video to social media stating, “If I sound emotional, then there is a reason for it and let me share it with you. Here in France, caricatures of the Prophet were drawn, and I am going to resist it today.” (source)

Witness claim: “There was one assailant who had a very big knife. The attack was very violent. I could hear the screams from the second floor.” (source)

Statement from President of the French Council of the Muslim Faith Council President: “The freedom to caricature is guaranteed for everyone. Nothing can justify violence.’’ (source)

September 25, 2020

September 28-30, 2020

Sept. 25th-attacker praised by family

Sept. 25th-attacker’s father in Pakistan: “My heart is filled with happiness… I can sacrifice all my five sons to protect the Prophet’s honor.” (source)

Sept 25th-attacker’s mother in Pakistan: “He told us that on Friday after the Friday prayers he would do it. He also called one of his friends and told him that he saw the holy prophet in his dream and he will go and do this.” (source)

September 28-30, 2020

October 2, 2020

President of France addresses “Islamic separatism”

President Macron national address in Paris: “Islam is a religion that is in crisis all over the world today, we are not just seeing this in our country.” A bill will be presented in December to strengthen a 1905 law that officially separates church and state in France. “No concession” will be made in driving religion out of education and the public sector. (source)

A plan is announced for legislation to combat “Islamic separatism” to go to parliament before the end of the year.
Prescriptions include: stricter monitoring of sports organizations and other potential spaces for Islamist teachings, an end to imams being sent to France from abroad, improved oversight of mosque financing, and restrictions on home schooling. (source)

October 2, 2020

October 9, 2020

Schoolteacher Samuel Paty shows students Charlie Hebdo comics

Samuel Paty, 47, shows the original Charlie Hebdo cartoons of Muhammad to 13-year-olds in a civic education class about freedom of expression every year since the attack. Before doing so, he gives students the option to leave the room. (source)

The Grand Mosque of Pantin posts a video with the father of one of Paty’s Muslim students, calling Paty a “thug”, and demanding his removal.

Abdullakh Anzorov, a Chechen immigrant residing in France at some point makes contact with Syrian Jihadists.

Anzorov trades texts with parent leading the anti-Paty campaign. (source)

October 9, 2020

October 16, 2020

Schoolteacher Samuel Paty beheaded

Hours before the murder, the Grand Mosque of Pantin’s video slamming Samuel Paty is removed.

Anzorov pays two of Paty’s students £270 to identify Paty. Anzorov says he will “film the teacher [and] make him apologise”, “humiliate him”, and “hit him.” (source)

Heading home from work, Paty is killed by Anzorov, who posts a picture of Paty’s severed head on Twitter. Anzorov is shot dead moments later. (source)

October 16, 2020

October 17, 2020

Arrests made for Paty murder

11 detained for murder of Samuel Paty. “…the assailant’s half-sister joined the Islamic State group in Syria in 2014,” (source)

October 17, 2020

October 18, 2020

Tens of thousands of people rally in solidarity with Samuel Paty

Tens of thousands rally in Paris and across France in support of Samuel Paty.
#JeSuisEnseignant ‘I am a teacher’ movement supporting freedom of expression and condemning violence goes viral. (source)

October 18, 2020

October 20, 2020

Grand Mosque that circulated anti-Paty video is closed

Macron promised to “intensify” a clampdown on Islamist extremism. (source)

The Grand Mosque of Pantin is closed via national order for six months, “for the sole purpose of preventing acts of terrorism.” (source)

Parent behind Grand Mosque of Pantin video is taken into custody. (source)

October 20, 2020

October 22, 2020

Charlie Hebdo cartoons projected on French government buildings

The images, including that of Muhammad, were projected onto Montpellier and Toulouse government buildings.
The regional mayor said the decision to project the images was to declare “there must be no weakness in the face of the enemies of democracy, in the face of those who transform religion into a weapon of war … those who intend to destroy the Republic.” (source)

October 22, 2020

October 24, 2020

Boycotts begin, Erdogan insults Macron

Boycott of French products begins: Hashtags including #BoycottFrenchProducts in English and #NeverTheProphet in Arabic go viral in Kuwait, Qatar, Palestine, Egypt, Algeria, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and other nations. (source)

Jordanian Mall removes all French products. (source)

Kuwait’s Al-Naeem Cooperative Society boycotts all French products. Kuwait’s Dahiyat al-Thuhr association boycotts all French products: “Based on the position of French President Emmanuel Macron and his support for the offensive cartoons against our beloved prophet, we decided to remove all French products.”

Qatar’s Wajbah Dairy boycotts all French products, promising alternatives.

Qatar’s Souq al-Baladi supermarket chain boycotts all French products (source)

Qatar’s Al-Meera supermarket chain boycotts all French products: “We affirm that as a national company, we work according to a vision consistent with our true religion, our established customs and traditions, and in a way that serves our country and our faith and meets the aspirations of our customers.” (source)

Qatar University postpones French cultural event indefinitely: “deliberate abuse of Islam and its symbols” “harm universal human values ​​and the highest moral principles that contemporary societies highly regard”

Erdogan says Macron needs mental treatment: “What’s the problem of the individual called Macron with Islam and with the Muslims? Macron needs treatment on a mental level. What else can be said to a head of state who does not understand freedom of belief and who behaves in this way to millions of people living in his country who are members of a different faith?” (source)

October 24, 2020

October 25, 2020

Muslim majority country leaders lash at Macron over cartoons and stance on “Islamic separatism”

Pakistan parliament asks government to recall ambassadors to France. (source)

Imran Khan: “Pres Macron could have put healing touch & denied space to extremists rather than creating further polarisation & marginalisation that inevitably leads to radicalisation.” (source)

Imran Khan posts letter asking Facebook to ban “Islamophobic content.” (source)

Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC): Macron’s words “boost a culture of hostility among peoples, and do not serve the strong relations between Islamic peoples and the civil people of France”, commitment to cartoons is “unacceptable.” (source)

Turkey foreign minister: “When truth is spoken to their faces, Europe’s loser racists show up and try to exploit Islamophobia and xenophobia. Time has come to stop Europe’s spoiled politicians with fascist mindset.” (source)

Kuwait: French policy “represents a falsification of reality, insults the teachings of Islam and offends the feelings of Muslims.” (source)

Jordan’s Foreign Ministry: “Publication of caricatures” “under the pretext of freedom” is unacceptable, they are “discriminatory and misleading attempts that seek to link Islam with terrorism.” (source)

France recalls ambassador to Turkey. (source)

October 25, 2020

October 26, 2020

Tens of thousands protest against France and cartoons in Muslim majority countries

Erdogan compares situation to Holocaust. “The rising Islamophobia in the West has turned into a wholesale attack on our book, our prophet, and everything we consider holy. Relocations, inquisitions and genocides toward members of different religions is not a practice that is foreign to Europe… The crimes against humanity committed against Jews 80 years ago… are still in the memory… You are in a real sense the links in the chain of Nazism.” (source)

Protests in Karachi (source)

Imran Khan: “It is unfortunate that he has chosen to encourage Islamophobia by attacking Islam rather than the terrorists who carry out violence, be it Muslims, White Supremacists or Nazi ideologists. Sadly, President Macron has chosen to deliberately provoke Muslims, incl his own citizens,” (source)

French Council on the Muslim Faith: “Muslim citizens are not persecuted, they freely construct their mosques and the freely practise their religion” (source)

Islamist political rally in Bangladesh draws 50,000: “Macron is one of the few leaders who worship Satan”, France is the “enemy of Muslims” (source)

Turkish presidential spokesman: “An attack on personal rights is not humour and freedom of expression” (source)

UAE-based, Shaykh al-Azhar-led Muslim Council of Elders resolves to sue Charlie Hebdo (source)

October 26, 2020

October 28, 2020

Anti-France sentiment spreads in Muslim majority countries; Turkey sues Charlie Hebdo over Erdogan caricature

Protest in Tehran calls for expulsion of French ambassador and boycott. (source)

Protest in Kabul calls for shutdown of embassy, severance of ties with France, and ban on entry of French citizens. (source)

Protest in Karachi at French consulate. (source)

France issues warning for citizens in Bangladesh, Indonesia, Iraq, and Mauritania, citing the “distort[ion of] the positions defended by France.” (source)

Charlie Hebdo publishes cartoon of Erdogan “Erdogan: In private, he is very funny!”: Erdogan sits in his underwear, peeking under a woman’s dress, and says “Ouuuh! The Prophet!” (source)

Turkish VP: “You cannot deceive anyone by hiding behind freedom of opinion! I condemn the immoral publication of the inexcusable French rag about our President.”

Turkish communications director: “We condemn this most disgusting effort by this publication to spread its cultural racism and hatred.” 

Erdogan’s spokesman: “We strongly condemn the publication concerning our president of the French magazine, which has no respect to faith, the sacred and values.”

Turkey threatens legal action over Charlie Hebdo’s caricature of Erdogan Turkish presidency: “We assure our people that necessary legal and diplomatic actions will be taken against this cartoon.” (source

Ankara prosecutor’s office launches an “official investigation” into the publication Turkish VP: “I condemn this incorrigible French rag’s immoral publication concerning our president. I call on the moral and conscientious international community to speak out against this disgrace.”

President of Iran: “Insulting the Prophet is insulting all Muslims”, France encourages “violence and bloodshed.” (source)

October 28, 2020

October 29, 2020

Multiple assaults in France; divided reactions

Knife attack at Notre-Dame basilica in Nice (source) Brahim Aouissaoui, a 21-year-old Tunisian national, enters Europe in September through the southern Italian island of Lampedusa. He does not leave the country in the seven days provided to him. He is unknown to French intelligence services, has no criminal record, and is not in the national fingerprint file.

On October 29 at around 8:30am, Aouissaoui begins his attack on the Notre Dame basilica, shouting “Allahu Akbar.” The assault lasts 28 minutes and claims three victims: a 60-year-old woman found at the entrance of the church with her throat slashed; a 55-year-old man also fatally wounded in the throat; and a 44-year-old woman who died from multiple stab wounds at the nearby restaurant she fled to. By 9:10am, the attacker is neutralized. (source)

French Council of the Muslim Faith: “As a sign of mourning and solidarity with the victims and their families, I call on the Muslims of France to cancel all the Mawlid festivities.” (source)

Gunman shouting “Allahu Akbar” in French city of Avignon, is killed. (source)

Saudi stabs guard at French embassy, is arrested. (source)

French anti-terror prosecutor: “the deadly ideology of Islamist terrorism remains alive and well, as well as its will to attack our liberties.” (source)

Israel, Iran, Jordan, Pakistan, Saudi, Lebanon, Qatar, Turkey, UAE, and Egypt, among others, condemn the attack. (source)

2.40pm: Lebanese PMdesignate issues “strongest condemnation”: “Terrorism has no religion”, attack is “not related to Islam or to the prophet of love.” (source)

2.55pm: Dozens rally in Islamabad, Pakistan, denouncing Macron’s speech, say they are ready to die to protect the honor of Muhammad. (source)

4.45pm: Somalia presidency states, not mentioning the attack: Somalia “deeply regrets any violation against the faith and sanctity of the Muslim people.” (source)

5.10pm: Twice former Malaysian PM has tweet censored, France requests he be banned from Twitter: “Muslims have a right to be angry and to kill millions of people for the massacres of the past.” (source)

Macron: “We will not give into terrorism.” (source)

France raises national terror alert to emergency level, deploying 4,000 military personnel for security at schools and places of worship. (source)

Al-Aqsa Sheikh Issam Amira applauds Paty’s murder: Paty’s beheading is an “honor”, the “terrorism of enemies” is permissible. (source) “As for what people call ‘terrorism’… When a Muslim of Chechen origin beheaded an infidel who slandered the Prophet Muhammad, people called this ‘terrorism’… Well, it is a great honor for him and all Muslims that there was such a young man to defend the Prophet Muhammad. He is like the men and women who, throughout history, defended the Prophet Muhammad, his sanctity, and his honor. All these terms will be re-engineered, once the word of Allah reigns supreme over the word of the infidels.”

October 29, 2020

October 30, 2020

Belgian teacher suspended over Charlie Hebdo cartoons; Trudeau says Freedom of expression has limits

Belgian teacher is suspended over cartoon of Muhammad (source) An unnamed elementary school teacher shows a Muhammad cartoon and discusses Paty’s beheading, allowing students to look away, and is subsequently suspended. The locale’s mayor says the suspension was a response to the explicit nature of the cartoon — which had portrayed Muhammad nude, and drawn complaints from parents — and not as a response to the caricature of Muhammad itself: “Our decision is uniquely based on the fact that these are obscene images. If it had not been of the Prophet we would have done the same thing.” 

Indonesian President: “Linking religion with terrorist acts is a big mistake… terrorism has nothing to do with any religion.” (source)

Trudeau: “Freedom of expression is not without limits” (source) “We owe it to ourselves to act with respect for others and to seek not to arbitrarily or unnecessarily injure those with whom we are sharing a society and a planet. We do not have the right for example to shout fire in a movie theatre crowded with people, there are always limits.”

October 30, 2020

October 31, 2020

Arabic news outlet interviews Macron

Macron Aljazeera interview: “I understand the sentiments being expressed and I respect them. But you must understand my role right now, it’s to do two things: to promote calm and also to protect these rights.”

“I will always defend in my country the freedom to speak, to write, to think, to draw.”

“I think that the reactions came as a result of lies and distortions of my words because people understood that I supported these cartoons.”

“The caricatures are not a governmental project, but emerged from free and independent newspapers that are not affiliated with the government.” (source)

October 31, 2020

November 1, 2020

Bangladesh mob burns down homes of Hindus supporting France

Hindus supporting Macron arrested in Bangladesh, homes torched. Shankar Debnath comments on Facebook “supporting” France’s defense of the Muhammad cartoons. A mob torches two Hindu households in response. Shankar and another are arrested for “hurting religious sentiments.” (source)

November 1, 2020

November 2, 2020

Anti-France rallies continue in Muslim majority countries; Effigies and coffins amid protests

2,000 chant “boycott France” and “Allahu Akbar” at rally in Jakarta, Indonesia, burning and stomping portraits of Macron. (source)

50,000 march in Bangladesh with coffin for Macron, Dhaka mosque pastes image of Macron in entryway so worshippers trample him. (source)

Al-Qaeda issues Macron a death threat, calls for more killings: “Killing anyone who insults the prophet is the right of each and every Muslim.” (source)

November 2, 2020

November 10, 2020

Saudi King condemns cartoons

King Salman: free speech is “not a tool to spread hate.” (source)

November 10, 2020

November 11, 2020

Bomb attack at Saudi cemetery

Several wounded during remembrance ceremony. On the morning of the 11th, an IED blows up at a non-Muslim cemetery in Jeddah during an international ceremony commemorating the end of World War I. A Greek consulate employee and Saudi security officer are injured. The French consulate in Jeddah urges French nationals in Saudi Arabia to exercise “maximum vigilance.” (source)

November 11, 2020

November 12, 2020

Amnesty International criticizes France for ‘hypocrisy’

Amnesty International: France “is not the champion of free speech that it likes to think it is.” (source)

November 12, 2020

November 16, 2020

Pakistan government caves to demands of far-right Islamist group

Pakistani Islamist TLP party calls off protest after deal with government. (source) The TLP, notorious supporting the Pakistani law that punished blasphemy with death, brought the government to agree to: 

  1. Have parliament deliberate expulsion of the French ambassador
  2. “[N]ot appoint its ambassador to France”
  3. The “complete boycott French goods on a government level”
  4. Amnesty for TLP protesters who were arrested (source)

Macron accuses English-language media of “legitimizing” violence in France. (source)

November 16, 2020

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