On this Monday at 11:15 am, there is a minute of silence to commemorate the cruelly murdered teacher Frans Samuel Paty. The French Minister of Education, Jean-Michel Blanquer, turned this request to the German Ministers of Education. Education Senator Sandra Scheeres (SPD) called on schools to participate. She sees it, like many, as a sign of connection, compassion and solidarity.
Such signs are important. Everyone should be free to post them. The truth, which is rightly valued in enlightened democracies with a Christian background, includes the fact that it is a political symbol. No country in Europe is engaged in such deep and deadly conflicts with Islamism as France.
No head of state in Europe advocates the right to blasphemy in the same way as Emmanuel Macron, declaring that Islam is a religion “in crisis”. It would not occur to any federal interior minister to be upset about food offerings to Muslims in supermarkets, as Gérald Darmanin did in France.
The French government is increasingly combating the terrible acts of terrorism with rhetoric that also seems threatening and should appear so.
Rejecting the move would have been an insult
The memory of Samuel Paty next Monday will not be free from this pressure. It would hardly have happened in this form if France had not proposed it. Agitated? The diplomatic channels used would justify talking about it.
Rejecting the move would have been an insult. The situation is now likely to be similar to individual participation in the minute of silence, which, in particular, requires Muslim teachers or students to take a stand on the anti-Islamic caricatures that Paty had displayed in class, in addition to announcing mourning.
Freedom also means being able to keep a distance
Freedom of speech? Absolutely. However, it also protects those who want to avoid politically motivated reviews through diplomatic channels. That makes the school an uncomfortable place when more needs to be done here than just dealing with a subject in class, when the didactic approach turns into confession.
Even if it is a commitment to freedom of expression. School attendance applies. You cannot ignore school.
All this does not contradict the silence of the minute. But it would also have been a sign if only teachers had gathered around her and the students were explicitly free to keep their distance. It would have been a commitment that takes conflict into account. So it is with freedom: it is easy to stand up for it; it is more difficult to deal with.