French police question 8-year-old on suspicion of “defending terrorism”

France is in a state of “collective hysteria,” says Sefen Guez Guez, the lawyer for a second grader questioned by police in France. (via BFMTV)

Just when it seemed that the crackdown on free speech in France could not get worse, French police today questioned a second grader on suspicion of “defending terrorism.”

BFMTV says that administrators at a primary school in Nice reported the child to police on 21 January after the boy allegedly said that he “felt he was on the side of the terrorists.”

“A police station is absolutely no place for an eight-year-old child,” the boy’s lawyer Sefen Guez Guez told BFMTV. He said that the incident showed that France was going through a state of “collective hysteria.”

Guez Guez said that on 8 January, the day after two French gunmen attacked the offices of the magazine Charlie Hebdo, the boy, whose name has been reported as Ahmed, was in class when he was asked if he was “Charlie.”

“He answered, ‘I am on the side of the terrorists, because I am against the caricatures of the prophet,’” the lawyer said.

Since the murders of the Charlie Hebdo cartoonists and the lethal attack by a third French gunman on a Jewish supermarket, French government officials and media have adopted the slogan “Je Suis Charlie” – I am Charlie – to indicate social conformity and support for official policies, all under the guise of supporting free speech.

The Collective Against Islamophobia in France, which has taken up Ahmed’s case, provided these additional details: “On 8 January, Ahmed, a second grader, was called on by his teacher who asked him if he was Charlie. Being of Muslim religion and aged only eight, he opposed Charlie Hebdo because of the caricatures of the prophet, and responded naively that he was on the side of the terrorists. Angered, the teacher sent him to the principal, who was in the class next door, and who asked him three times in front of the whole class, ‘Are you Charlie?’”

The child’s parents were called in and “played an educational role, explaining to him what terrorism really was and why one should be on the side of the Charlie Hebdo victims,” Guez Guez said.

Principal calls police

Instead of leaving the matter there, on 21 January, the school principal lodged two complaints with police, one against the child for “defending terrorism,” and another against the child’s father for trespassing.

According to the lawyer, the child had been deeply upset and isolated after what happened, so his father accompanied him to the school playground on three occasions after 8 January, before being told he was not allowed to do so.

Fabienne Lewandowski, a spokesperson for the Alpes-Maritimes regional police, confirmed to BFMTV that they received the complaints. Lewandowski revealed that the school principal claimed that the child had said “French people should be killed,” “I am on the side of the terrorists” and “the journalists deserved to die.” The child then allegedly refused to take part in a government-decreed minute of silence.

“During our interview, the child indicated that he had said some of these words, but did not really understand what they meant,” the police spokesperson said. “The purpose of this interview was to understand exactly what had happened, and what could have led him to say this.”

“We can regret that this took the form of an official police interview,” Lewandowski said, “but under the circumstances, we could have gone even further.”

According to the police spokesperson, the father “showed regret for his son’s words.”

The Collective Against Islamophobia in France said that his interview by police “was an additional trauma that illustrates the collective hysteria that has ensued since the beginning of January.”

Prosecutors in Nice have yet to decide how to proceed in the case.

Victim of bullying?

Ahmed has said that he was a victim of bullying by the school principal, according to his lawyer, BFMTV reported. On one occasion, the child was playing in a sandbox. According to the child’s account relayed by the lawyer, the principal told the boy, “stop digging in the sand, you won’t find a machine-gun in there.”

On another occasion, Ahmed, who is diabetic, alleges the principal deprived him of his insulin, saying, “Since you want us all to die, you will taste death.” The principal has denied the accusation.

Guez Guez said that Ahmed’s parents planned to lodge a complaint about the school’s behavior.

According to Le Figaro, the French education ministry confirmed that the school principal had also made a report about Ahmed to child protective services.

Government crackdown

While Ahmed’s case may seem extreme, the complaint against him is enabled by an atmosphere of intolerance and authoritarianism fostered by the French government.

Since the attacks in Paris, the government has launched an unprecedented crackdown, condemned by Amnesty International as well as French civil rights groups, in which it has jailed dozens of people for things they have said, under the vague charge of “defending terrorism.”

Previously, as The Electronic Intifada reported, one of those arrested was a sixteen-year-old high schooler, for allegedly posting a caricature mocking Charlie Hebdo.

Yesterday, French President François Hollande used an International Holocaust Memorial Day speech to confirm that his government plans to tighten its control over what people are allowed to say online and stiffen penalties for illegal speech.




It appears in France that "Free Speech" is a conditional assertion based on conformity.

Free Speech can no longer be used to have a differing view to that of the mindless gullible general collective.

Je suis Charlie?

No! !!


How absolutely absurd. An eight year old boy being bullied by abusive school personnel and humiliated in front of his classmates is absolutely unacceptable. And for the school to call in the police about this child is outrageous. It is, indeed, nothing more than collective hysteria and it must be reined in by the government before real harm is done. If Charlie Hebdo had freedom of speech, then so does this child even though he clearly did not understand the ramifications of what he was saying. Charlie Hebdo did understand the ramifications of their "free speech" and look where that went.


So I guess you think the kid should be shot for what he said, since it is seems to be OK with you that CH did.


So, the police in France are no better than the fascists in the US or Canada. Terrorising children for expression is the new "policing" ? Free speech as long as what is said supports the official government line? Seems there was a world war fought to end this sort of thing.


True, but then all this has really nothing to do with so called free speech.
Arresting children is one of the "specialities" of the state of Israel ,seems like France is joining the outlaws.
The schocking behaviour of the head teacher should be roundly condemned and should result in his or her being sacked immediately as should the class teacher who asked the 8 year old child if he was Charlie. Their disgraceful behaviour is a downright abuse of power.


>> Angered, the teacher sent him to the principal, who was in the class next door, and who asked him three times in front of the whole class, ‘Are you Charlie?’”<<

OMG, it's so moronic it's almost funny.
I always thought my teachers back then were the worst morons in the world but I feel sorry for the children in this school.


ok let me get this straight...two deranged men gun down journalists in response to which the mag prints images hurtful to more than a billion people on the planet in name of freedom of speech, and then jail those people who speak against this action?........ this is beyond bonkers.
the said principal obviously dosent want to "help" this poor kid or to prevent him from becoming a "terrorist". all he is and all he wants is to be an average school yard bully who is powerless and lacks the IQ to solve his problems so simply lashes out on those weaker than him. its insane that the government is supporting this attitude. by this they may end up starting a war within their won country because when they push normal citizens to the wall they will react in any manner they can.....its basic biology.


So, calling for the murder of French people falls under freedom of expression? Is the same true if he was calling for the killjng of muslims?



So, who is calling for the murder of French people?
Calling for the murder of muslims is something that happens regularly in Europe.
Outside of Europe it is a daily occurrance in Israel and within the illegal colonies built on Palestinian land. Unfortunately it is rarely considered worth a mention in mainstream media despite the fact that many muslims are French people.


End to all the French and their Frenchy proclivities! Just look at the language; the absurd amount of surplus consonants serve as yet another example of the perverting opulence of the French State! End to all the striped shirt wearing, deodorant averse, cheese sniffing, [insert stereotypical verby thing here], baguette sucking French and their precious Eiffel Tower! Most importantly, we cannot abide the continued cultural appropriation of the crescent moon by these amoral Francophones!


France needs a revolution to bring it back to some semblance of normality. There are too many little tin gods strutting about making speeches "full of sound and fury, signifying nothing"


Being French, I will allow myself a certain comment that might not be accepted by the French.
In French values, kids are often taught to toughen up and develop a thicker skin to life's 'hardships' if you will, by using humiliation and public exposure to make the kid feel bad about what he has done. In other cultures where you would have a parent sit down with the kid and tell him you did this and that wrong because of so and so reasons, the parents and teachers in France, due to their OWN culture and the way they were raised, use techniques of humiliation, as if exposing a child to such trauma was beneficial for the long run. I have always pleaded that it is not the right approach towards understanding and learning, but french academics and parenting do not seem to understand that. I am NOT stating that ALL french parents and teachers use that method, however it is massively widespread in french culture. The line where the principal tells the kid he wont find guns in the sandbox is soooo French academic. The moment where they force the kid in front an entire class to pronounce Je suis Charlie is pure idiotic academic endoctrination of a scholar system that is purely elitist and that end up having often the worst people in place. Example: French doctors are terrible, as the level of narcissism and psychopathy needed to qualify for entry is absurd. Another example: France has the longest process to becoming a airplane pilot out of all the countries. You need to be an engineer, you need the highest math colleges, and many more, but Air France has the highest amount of plane crashes in the world for the last 20 years, and all 13 of their crashes in the last 20 years were... wait for it... pilot error. French educational system is one of the biggest pyramids I have ever seen. Its time French society gets down from that pedestal and starts understanding that their knowledge they so dearly believe is true and righteous, is in fact full of cr** and complete endoctrination.


I am not French but have VISITED France in younger days several times. My family for reasons not important here were "francophiles". My parents were
involved in helping the German resistance in exile in Paris etc. I was born
on an island called "Manhattan". Later in my youth I became involved in an
American version of what Alan D describes though not academic. Beating of
children is an acceptable method of parenting in many different cultures.
Working for an anti-poverty agency ("Head Start") long ago, I believe that
many came to believe that beatin g/physical punishment etc str not as "effective" as was once thought.

I believe it is difficult for many, especially Americans, to understand the supposed "logic" in the kind of parenting, educational traditions (eg
European educational ones).

Thanks too to M. "Alan D." for giving us insight where my "Vive la France"
was little help and was intended as sarcasm. Sarcasm is indeed a blunt and
most often a very imprecise method of communication.


-----Peter Loeb, Boston, MA, USA


I agree with Alan's statements on French education. For me humiliation of children is one of the most destructive practices of teachers or parents . My personal witnessing of such practices in French schools was what made up my mind never to send my children to a French school despite the fact that that decision involved having to move house.


Especially in the West, it is common to write as though the depiction of Muhammad
in various Muslim beliefs is strangely odd, "foreign to OUR way of life".

In " Charlie" one so-called "cartoon" pictuired Muhammad stark naked with his
genitals clearly defined. A Muslim author who wrote for "Charlie"'s predecessor
asked "What's funny?"

In "The Last Judgement" completed by Italy's Michelangelo in 1541 not only was
Christ not in the position which had become traditional at that time, but most of
the male Biblical figures were uncovered. Free speech or no, they were subsequently covered (by additions to the work)and remain so today.

A gift of Michelangelo's statue David was presented to Jews at the "celebration"
of Jeruselum's 3,000 year "birthday". It was refused by the Israeli authorities.
"David" too is uncovered.

Is hate mail covered under "free speech"?

Are death threats covered under "free speech"?

In the USA which likes to boast of its protection of "free speech", it is swell
known that one cannot shout "Fire!" in a cinema and claim free speech protection.

Glenn Greenwald has pointed out that he spent years defending the rights of
those whose "speech" he personally found abhorrent. That was his duty as an

Where do you draw the line? Do you accept permitting a group---any group---
to picture a person,politician, ruler, or other naked? Should cartoons be
permitted showing the Roman Catholic Pope naked?

More than a discussion of what is said in such and such Muslim documents,
these decisions focus on what YOU deem the proper kind of society you
wish and the level of public debate within that society.

----Peter Loeb, Boston, MA, USA


This is lunacy. France's silent undoing is imminent, and there is no one to blame except themselves. In defense of one party's absolute freedom of speech, they don't hesitate to deny that very same freedom to others. Selectively choosing what is and is not considered freedom of speech as it suits their needs; selectively and with much bias. I think it's far from over, unfortunately. Curious to see what France will do next.

Thought police, anyone? Not far from being a reality.

Ali Abunimah

Ali Abunimah's picture

Co-founder of The Electronic Intifada and author of The Battle for Justice in Palestine, now out from Haymarket Books.

Also wrote One Country: A Bold-Proposal to End the Israeli-Palestinian Impasse. Opinions are mine alone.