There is a council meeting in the southern French town of Ollioules tomorrow but one item has been removed from the agenda. The mayor, Robert Beneventi, will not now propose renaming the area’s Eucalyptus College after Samuel Paty.
You’ll recall the fate of Monsieur Paty, beheaded just beyond the gates of his Parisian suburb school last October by a young Islamist enraged that the teacher had shown a caricature of the Prophet during a lesson discussing freedom of expression. Paty’s brutal death sparked revulsion around the world – save in Pakistan and Turkey – and in France there was a large rally in Paris.
There were numerous placards proclaiming ‘Je Suis Samuel’ and similar sentiments were widely expressed on social media. At the time I pointed out the empty rhetoric of many of those present. And so it has proved.
The reason mayor Beneventi dropped the idea of renaming the college in memory of Samuel Paty is because of the results of an internal survey. On the question of whether Eucalyptus College should adopt the name of the dead teacher, 89 per cent of parents and 69 per cent of pupils said no. As for the teaching staff, 100 per cent replied in the negative. ‘Obviously we want to want to honour our colleague, but not like that,’ said a staff spokeswoman.
Asked why not, she said that first Paty was not from the town, so he had no strong links to the college. Second: ‘It would make us all targets and we don’t need that. It’s running an unnecessary risk.’
One wonders what the family of Samuel Paty made of the response. The mayor had obtained their permission to make the change, and had secured the agreement of the Regional council, so he imagined it would be a formality.