Dutch PM denounces intolerance as teacher in hiding amid Islam cartoon debate

ToSterling
·2-min read

By Toby Sterling

AMSTERDAM (Reuters) - Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte on Friday denounced what he called intolerable threats to freedom of expression, after a Rotterdam teacher was forced into hiding following a classroom discussion on the killing of French teacher Samuel Paty.

Police said they had arrested a teenager on suspicion of inciting threats against the Dutch teacher.

It was not clear if the unidentified 18-year-old woman, who police said posted messages on social media, was a student at the city's Emmauscollege high school, where the class debate took place.

Police did not detail the content of the messages.

Premier Mark Rutte called threats against the teacher "absurd" and "intolerable".

"We must be able to discuss topics such as freedom of expression in our classrooms without any outside pressure," he told reporters.

"It may hurt when someone has an opinion that conflicts with your worldview or religious conviction, but they have a right to say so in all liberty."

Schools in the Netherlands, France and Germany had been asked to hold a moment of silence for Paty, who was beheaded by a man of Chechen origin in a Paris suburb in October after showing pupils cartoons of the Prophet Mohammad by the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo.

During a classroom discussion on Monday at the Emmauscollege, students noticed a satirical cartoon that had been hanging on a bulletin board for years, and some took offence.

The cartoon, which won a national prize in 2015, shows a decapitated figure labelled "Charlie Hebdo" sticking its tongue out at a bearded man with a bloody sword.

A photo of the image quickly began circulating on social media, and on Tuesday the teacher who had led the discussion went into hiding due to what police said were serious threats.

Also on Tuesday, Le Monde reported that a school in a Paris suburb was closed after threats against a teacher.

(Reporting by Toby Sterling. Additional reporting by Joseph Nasr and Christian Lowe; Editing by Jon Boyle and John Stonestreet)