An Irishman teaching university in Paris was murdered on Wednesday by an Islamic radical in his class who told French police that he’d taken John Dowling’s life because the professor had “insulted the Prophet Mohammed.”
According to authorities, Dowling, 66, was stabbed 13 times outside Leonardo de Vinci University. The perpetrator, known only as Ali R., is a 37-year-old Pakistani immigrant. He confessed to police that he’d committed the killing and acknowledged holding a grudge against Dowling since failing his exams last year.
Prosecutors told the media that Ali R. had nurtured an “obsessive resentment” against the private university since they kicked him out last September.
“He came to France two years ago to join the management school, but did not pass his first year,” said prosecutor Catherine Denis. “Since then he had been returning to the college and had become unwanted to the point that he was not allowed in anymore.”
Denis said that the perpetrator had also accused Dowling of insulting Islam by showing the class a depiction of the religion’s founder.
“He produced a drawing, which he showed off in class, insulting the Prophet Mohammed,” Ali told investigators.
But Denis said that “nobody remembers such an incident.”
Even so, she had no doubt that – whether or not Ali has been feeding into the more radical strains of Islam – he certainly takes his religion seriously.
“We don’t have proof of radicalization,” she said, “but rather a feeling that we’re dealing with someone who is very religious, very pious, very practicing.”
When it comes to Islam, we’re not sure there’s a vast gulf between “very religious” and “radical.”
Insulting Mohammed or depicting him in any way has, of course, been used as a justification for violence many times. France, in particular, remembers the awful massacre at the offices of Charlie Hebdo magazine. That unfolded after the publication printed an issue with Mohammed’s visage on the cover. Much the same reason was used to justify an attempted shooting in Texas, where anti-Islam groups put on a “Draw Mohammed” art contest in the name of free speech.
Unfortunately, the world’s reaction to this bloodshed has not been to join hands in solidarity over the importance of free speech. Rather, many publications and people on the left have insisted that we refrain from “insulting” the Prophet and those who worship him. These same people engage in ridicule of Christ without a second thought, so the fear behind this supposedly-thoughtful decision is quite obvious.
To be sure, fear is a natural and not-incorrect response to have when literally millions of Muslims are willing to kill you for drawing a picture. But let’s at least be honest about that fear instead of pretending that, in this one instance, we’re super-respectful of religious beliefs.