Belgian teacher suspended over Prophet Muhammad cartoons

Belgian teacher suspended for showing Prophet Muhammad cartoons to 10-year-old students
3 min read
31 October, 2020
A school in Brussels dismissed a teacher for showing a class of 10 and 11-year-olds controversial cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad, amid global uproar over the caricatures.
The cartoons sparked global outrage [Getty]

A teacher in Brussels was suspended from work after showing his students controversial cartoons of Islam’s Prophet Muhammad during class, amid global outrage over the offensive caricatures.

The teacher showed the cartoons to a class of 10 and 11-year-olds during a lesson on freedom of expression, prompting complaints from parents, according to La Libre Belgique.

The move came just weeks after a suspected Islamist extremist on October 16 beheaded a schoolteacher in a Paris suburb for showing pupils cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed in a class on free speech.

The cartoons were those published multiple times by French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, the offices of which were attacked in 2015 by Islamist extremists.

French President Emmanuel Macron defence of the right to publish the cartoons sparked global outrage, boycott movements and streets protests. 

Meanwhile, a French archbishop has warned of the dangers of publishing offensive cartoons, amid renewed tensions between France and the Muslim world.

The Archbishop of Toulouse Robert Le Gall said he opposed the publishing of caricatures insulting Islam’s Prophet Muhammad, saying “there are limits to freedom of speech”.

“These are considered an insult to Muslims and Christians alike and they should not be spread further. We all see their results,” he said in comments to France Bleu radio station.

Read also: Prophet Muhammad cartoons 'an insult to Muslims and Christians alike', French archbishop says

“There are limits to freedom of expression and we should realise that we do not have the right to insult religions,” he added.

On Friday, a Danish far-right party announced a campaign to republish cartoons depicting Islam's Prophet Muhammad that a French teacher showed students before being killed, but local media were hesitant.

"The killing of Samuel Paty triggered the campaign, we want to show our support for his family and for freedom of speech," Pernille Vermund, leader of Nye Borgerlige (The New Right), told AFP.

The anti-immigration party holds four out of the 179 seats in the Danish parliament.

On its website, the party launched a fundraiser to "publish advertisements with the drawings of Charlie Hebdo in Danish newspapers".

In Danish media circles the initiative was greeted with mixed responses.

Poul Madsen, editor of tabloid Extrabladet said they would only decide on the advertisements when they saw them and "not before".

"We condemn Muslim terrorism and 100 percent support France, the murdered and freedom of speech but always with careful regard to our employees and those especially vulnerable," Madsen posted on Twitter.

Vermund said she was "not at all certain it will be possible" to publish the drawings.

"But as a politician my obligation is that the development of society goes towards more freedom of speech not less," she said.

Cartoons depicting the Prophet Mohammed were published by Danish daily Jyllands-Posten in 2005, leading to widespread protests and anger among many Muslim communities, to whom depictions of the prophet are widely considered to be forbidden.

The French satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo, like other European newspapers, then republished them in 2006 in defence of freedom of speech.

In 2015, the newspaper was the target of an extremist attack that killed 12 people, among them journalists and cartoonists.

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