Timeline: A series of attacks in France amid a debate over Islam

The atmosphere in France is heightened, with three killed in an attack on a church in Nice.

People chant slogans as they set fire to French flag during a protest in Peshawar, Pakistan [Reuters]

A rift between the Muslim world and France is widening, as leaders and the public in several Muslim countries respond to a speech on October 2 in which President Emmanuel Macron said Islam was “in crisis” globally.

The fallout is deepening amid renewed French support for the right to show caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad.

The prophet is deeply revered by Muslims and any kind of visual depiction is forbidden in Islam. The caricatures in question are seen by them as offensive and Islamophobic because they are perceived to link Islam with terrorism.

French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo republished cartoons of Prophet Muhammad in early September and a French teacher, who showed the cartoons to his pupils in class, was beheaded by an attacker on October 16.

The developments have ignited a war of words between French authorities and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who has supported growing calls for a boycott of French goods.

Today, in a sign of spreading anger, demonstrators in several countries have been denouncing the European country in street protests.

Protests have recently taken place in Pakistan, Bangladesh, Palestine, Iran and Afghanistan among other countries.

Here is a timeline of recent events:

September 1 – Republishing of prophet cartoons

Charlie Hebdo announced that it will republish the cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad to mark the start of the trial of alleged accomplices in the deadly 2015 attack.

Among the cartoons, most of which were first published by a Danish newspaper in 2005 and then by Charlie Hebdo a year later, is one of the prophet wearing a bomb-shaped turban with a lit fuse protruding.

French President Emmanuel Macron said it was not his place to pass judgement on the Charlie Hebdo’s decision to reprint the cartoons.

“It’s never the place of a president of the republic to pass judgement on the editorial choice of a journalist or newsroom, never. Because we have freedom of the press,” Macron said.

September 2 – Trial of 2015 attack begins

Fourteen people went on trial in Paris on charges of assisting the gunmen who attacked Charlie Hebdo, killing 12 people and injuring 11 others.

Twelve people, including some of the magazine’s best-known cartoonists, were killed when two men stormed the Paris offices of Charlie Hebdo and sprayed the building with automatic gunfire.

September 25 – Attack in front of former Charlie Hebdo office

A man armed with a meat cleaver attacked and wounded two people who were smoking in front of the former Charlie Hebdo Paris office, where the 2015 attack happened.

The main suspect, an 18-year-old man of Pakistani origin, was captured near the scene. Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin said it was “clearly an act of Islamist terrorism”.

Charlie Hebdo vacated its offices after the 2015 attack and is now in a secret location.

October 2 – Macron calls Islam ‘religion in crisis’

Macron unveiled a plan to defend France’s secular values against what he termed as “Islamist radicalism”, saying the religion was “in crisis” all over the world.

In a national address, Macron said “no concessions” would be made in a new drive to push religion out of education and the public sector in France.

He announced that the government would present a bill in December to strengthen a 1905 law that officially separated church and state in France.

October 16 – Beheading of French school teacher

An 18-year-old man of Chechen origin beheaded Samuel Paty, a 47-year-old teacher who had shown pupils cartoons of the prophet in a civics lesson on freedom of speech.

Paty was attacked on his way home from the junior high school where he taught in Conflans-Sainte-Honorine, about 30 kilometres (19 miles) northwest of Paris.

October 20 – Paris mosque closed

French authorities said they would close a Paris mosque in a clampdown on “radical Islam” after the beheading of Paty.

The mosque in a densely-populated suburb northeast of Paris had published a video on its Facebook page days before Friday’s gruesome murder, railing against the teacher’s choice of material for a class discussion on freedom of expression, said a source close to the investigation.

October 22 – ‘We will not give up cartoons’

Macron paid tribute to Paty, calling him a “quiet hero” dedicated to instilling the democratic values of the French Republic in his pupils.

“We will not give up cartoons,” Macron told a nationally televised ceremony at the Sorbonne University in Paris attended by Paty’s family.

The president gave France’s highest civilian award, the Legion of Honour, to Paty and said he had been slain by “cowards” for representing the secular, democratic values of the French republic.

“He was killed because Islamists want our future,” Macron said. “They will never have it.”

October 24 – Erdogan: Macron needs mental check

Turkey’s Erdogan said that Macron needed “mental health treatment” over his attitude towards Muslims, prompting France to recall its ambassador.

“What is the problem of this person called Macron with Muslims and Islam?” he said.

Erdogan added: “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?”

October 24 – Growing calls to boycott French products

Social media users in many Muslim countries join calls to boycott French goods. Street protests emerged and Erdogan days later supported the movement to stop buying French products.

October 28 – Charlie Hebdo publishes cartoon of Erdogan

Charlie Hebdo released a cartoon of Erdogan, which was slammed by Turkish authorities as a “disgusting effort” to “spread its cultural racism and hatred”.

Erdogan said later in the day that Western countries mocking Islam wanted to “relaunch the Crusades,” adding that standing against attacks on the prophet was “an issue of honour for us”.

October 29 – Knife attack in Nice, gunman killed in Avignon, Saudi stabs guard at embassy

A knife-wielding attacker killed three people at a church in the French city of Nice at noon.

Within hours of the Nice attack, in a separate incident, police killed a man who had threatened passersby with a handgun in Montfavet, near the southern French city of Avignon.

In Saudi Arabia on Thursday, state television reported that a Saudi man had been arrested in the city of Jeddah after attacking and injuring a guard at the French consulate.

Source: Al Jazeera