Dutch teacher goes into hiding amid threats over political cartoon

Dutch teacher goes into hiding after classroom cartoon mocking jihadists is deemed ‘blasphemy’ by Muslim schoolgirls and prompts online threats

  • A teacher from Emmauscollege in Rotterdam has been accused of blasphemy 
  • They had displayed a cartoon supporting Charlie Hebdo on their classroom wall 
  • The incident comes as teachers have been caught in the crosshairs of a deeply-felt conflict between religious sensibilities and freedom of speech in Europe
  • On October 16, high school teacher Samuel Paty was beheaded in a Paris suburb
  • Last week, a teacher in Belgium was suspended over controversial cartoons

A Dutch teacher has gone into hiding after receiving threats over a cartoon displayed on their classroom wall.

Police are investigating online threats against the unnamed teacher – who works at the Emmauscollege high school in Rotterdam – after they were accused of blasphemy by some Muslim students over a cartoon in support of the controversial French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo.

A bulletin board in the teacher’s classroom featured numerous quotes from the Indian spiritual figure Jiddu Krishnamurti, according to NRC and De Telegraaf newspapers.   

It also displayed a prize-winning political cartoon by Dutch artist Josep Bertrams which was drawn in solidarity with Charlie Hebdo after 12 people were murdered at the magazine’s Paris offices in a 2015 terror attack. 

The attack followed the magazine’s publication of a cartoon depicting the Prophet Mohammed. 

Police are investigating online threats against the unnamed teacher – who works at the Emmauscollege high school in Rotterdam – after they were accused of blasphemy by some Muslim students over a cartoon in support of the controversial French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo

The Dutch cartoon displayed in the teacher’s classroom showed a decapitated person in a Charlie Hebdo t-shirt sticking their tongue out of their open throat at the person who beheaded them. 

The surprised attacker looks on holding a bloodied sword. His beard and clothes would suggest the man is intended to represent a Muslim.     

Some Muslim girls in the class reportedly demanded the drawing to be taken down, saying it was blasphemous. 

A student then posted a photo of the image on the internet, claiming it was ‘a cartoon of our prophet’ that the teacher must have put up as a provocation. 

‘If this is not removed very quickly’ someone wrote on Instagram, ‘then we will do this differently.’ 

At the time of the girls’ complaints, the teacher explained that the cartoon did not show the Prophet Mohammed but rather a terrorist.

The Prophet Mohammed is extremely revered in Islam, which prohibits the depiction of animate objects including people and animals. 

Visual representations of Mohammed or Allah are considered particularly egregious by some followers of the faith.

The cartoon in question did not depict Mohammed but rather a generic ‘jihadist-type’ figure.

According to police, the teacher had also received online threats over the image.

The Prophet Mohammed is extremely revered in Islam, which prohibits the depiction of animate objects including people and animals. 

Visual representations of Mohammed or Allah are considered particularly egregious by some followers of the faith.

The cartoon in question did not depict Mohammed – as claimed by one student – but rather a generic ‘jihadist-type’ figure. This was explained by the teacher. 

The drawing had been displayed in the teacher’s classroom since its 2015 publication but only drew complaints after the school held a memorial service for murdered French high school teacher Samuel Paty.  

NRC reported that more teachers at the school, which focuses on pre college and pre university streams, no longer feel safe. 

French high school teacher Samuel Paty was beheaded in the street of Conflans-Sainte-Honorine on October 16 after showing a class a controversial cartoon depicting the Prophet Mohammed Pictured: A man walks past a poster of Paty on the suburb’s city hall

Paty was beheaded in the street of Conflans-Sainte-Honorine, a Parisian suburb on October 16.  

The murder followed a lesson in which Paty showed a Charlie Hebdo cartoon depicting Mohammed to students as part of a discussion on freedom of speech. 

He was killed by an 18-year-old man of Chechen descent who was later shot dead by police.

Seven people, including two students and one parent from Paty’s school, have been charged in connection with the attack. 

French President Emmanuel Macron’s response defending the cartoons and Paty’s actions has sparked mass protests and boycotts of French goods in many Muslim-majority countries.  

French President Emmanuel Macron’s response defending the cartoons and Paty’s actions has sparked mass protests and boycotts of French goods in many Muslim-majority countries. Pictured: An effigy of Macron is burned in Kolkata, India on November 4

A mass anti-Macron protest takes place in Dhaka, Bangladesh on Monday, November 2

Following the comments, three people were killed in a terrorist attack at a Catholic church in Nice on October 29, while at least four died and more than 20 people were wounded in a shooting and stabbing attack in Vienna, Austria on Monday. 

France has been hit by several major terror attacks in recent years. Its fiercely secular state was founded on the concept of laïcité, which separates state institutions – including schools – from the influence of religion. 

In recent years, this policy has chafed with the reality of France’s multicultural population, particularly Muslims, some of whom feel they have been unfairly targeted by secularism policies including a ban on the wearing of some forms of Islamic dress in public spaces. 

Teachers are increasingly on the front lines of this contentious and deeply-felt conflict in France and elsewhere. 

French police guard the Notre-Dame Basilica in Nice where three people were killed last month

A woman lays a candle outside Vienna’s main synagogue near the site of a terror attack amid tributes to those killed and injured

On Friday, a teacher in the Belgian capital Brussels was suspended after showing a caricature of the Prophet Mohammed to students while discussing the murder of Samuel Paty.  

The teacher, who works in the heavily-Muslim-populated district of Molenbeek, showed students an image where the subject’s genitals can be seen as he crouches nude. 

A spokesman for Molenbeek’s mayor said the decision to suspend the teacher was ‘based on the fact that these are obscene images’ and that the same action would have been taken even if the subject depicted was not the Prophet. 

The spokesman said ‘two or three parents complained’ about the image, shown to a class of 10-11 year olds.  

Neighbouring Belgium has, like France, seen a number of terrorist attacks in recent years and Molenbeek has become notorious as a radical hotbed.

The mayor’s spokesman stressed the suspension was not a punishment, but to preserve good order while a disciplinary procedure is carried out, after which the teacher could face administrative measures.  

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