French President Emmanuel Macron’s remarks defending cartoons insulting Prophet Muhammad have caused outrage among Muslims across the world triggering a campaign to boycott French products.
His statement came after a French school teacher, Samuel Patty, was beheaded by a Chechen-origin teenager for displaying the cartoons in a class on freedom of speech.
Early this month in France, Macron’s statements about “the need to reform Islam” drew reactions from Muslims all over the world.
Macron, referring to Islam as “a religion in crises across the world”, claimed that “the Muslims in France have ideologies that defend separatist ideas”.
French Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin said on Oct. 13 that 73 mosques, private schools and workplaces had been shut down since the beginning of the year due to “the fight against radical Islamism”. Additionally, he said he was bothered by the halal food sections in markets, giving perspective to the French government’s take on freedom of belief.
French government’s attitude against Muslims have led to an increase in Islamophobic actions and racist attacks in the country.
Just recently, two Muslim women of Algerian origin were stabbed near Eiffel Tower, and on Sunday two Jordanian brothers were exposed to racist violence in Paris.
Despite all this, French authorities continued encouraging the insulting cartoons initially published by the Charlie Hebdo magazine under the guise of “freedom of expression”.
After the teacher’s killing, these cartoons were displayed on some public buildings of the country.
Campaign boycotting French products in Muslim countries
As many Islamic countries including Turkey condemned France’s Islamophobic actions unanimously, campaigns boycotting French products were launched on social media. Some countries removed French products off shelves at markets.
French Foreign Ministry panicked as the calls for boycott grew dramatically. On Sunday, the ministry issued a written statement calling for this boycott to stop.
Top-level reactions from Turkey
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said in a speech on Oct. 7 that Macron’s “Islam in crisis” statement was a clear provocation, and described his expression as “impudence and rudeness”.
The Foreign Ministry said: “It is not anyone’s place to subject our great religion, which means ‘peace’ to false and distorted approaches under the pretext of ‘enlightenment’.”
Ali Erbas, the head of religious affairs, said the hanging of cartoons targeting Prophet Muhammad on public buildings in France indicates that Islamophobia is supported by officials and called on the international community to fight against actions offending Muslims.
Upon Macron’s support for cartoons insulting Prophet Muhammad in France, Erdogan criticized Macron and said he needs “mental treatment”.
Organization of Islamic Cooperation
The Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) called on France to revise its separatist policies that target Islam and offends over one and a half billion Muslims in the world.
OIC said: “We condemn the constant systematic attack on the feelings of Muslims by insulting the religious symbols represented by the person of the Prophet Muhammad.”
Pakistan Prime Minister Khan warns against Islamophobia
Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan said that Macron by attacking Islam was hurting the feelings of Muslims and encouraging Islamophobia.
In a tweet, he said Macron was intentionally provoking Muslims, including his own citizens, by displaying the insulting cartoons.
Siraj ul Haq, leader of the mainstream religious Jamaat-e-Islami party, also condemned Macron’s remarks, calling on Muslims to unite in action.
Reactions from Iran
The French leader’s actions also drew strong reactions from the government and parliament of Iran.
The Foreign Ministry said that insults and disrespect toward Prophet Mohammad are unacceptable and that the French government’s attitude toward Muslims had caused hatred to rise more than ever.
The strongest reaction from Iran came from Parliament Speaker Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf who said the evil deed of these dishonorable people reveal their disbelief in Allah and their hostility toward all heavenly religions.
Iraq, Syria and Yemen
In Baghdad, a protest rally was taken out on Sunday. Protesters carried posters of Macron crossed in red.
In the protests held in Syria and Yemen, demonstrators carried banners saying: “Prophet Mohammad is our red line.” Posters of Macron were set on fire during the demonstrations.
Protesters in Palestine carry Turkish flag
Protesters in Palestine carried the Turkish flag during demonstrations and burned posters of Macron.
They also carried posters of Turkish President Erdogan, citing his advocacy for Islam and the Prophet Muhammad.
Palestinians gathered in the province of Ramallah in the occupied West Bank holding banners that read: “Our Prophet is the red line.”
The Palestinian Islamic Jihad Movement said in a statement that Macron’s disregard for the feelings of Muslims encourages extremism and racism.
Daoud Shihab, spokesman of the group, told Anadolu Agency: “Turkey represents the Islamic world in the face of Western racism and Turkey is the vivid conscience of Muslims.”
Hamas in a statement said they deeply resented the stance coming from France.
Kuwait’s Foreign Minister Sheikh Ahmed Al Nasser Al Sabah, Parliament Speaker Marzouq Ali Thunayan Al-Ghanim and the political wing of the Organization of Muslim Brotherhood (Ikhwan), the Islamic Constitutional Movement Party (HADES) and some of its deputies condemned the statement by Macron and the publication of cartoons insulting Prophet Muhammad.
Moreover, the Union of Consumer Cooperative Society, which has more than 70 retail chains in Kuwait, announced that all French products were removed from their shelves as of Oct. 23.
Qatar and the Gulf
Qatar University announced that it has postponed the French Culture Week indefinitely on the grounds of “deliberate abuse of the religion and symbols of Islam”.
“The humiliation or violation of Islamic values, symbols, and beliefs is absolutely rejected. Such insults damage universal humane values and the lofty values of all societies,” the university said in a statement.
Similarly, Qatar’s leading retail chains announced that French products are to be removed from their shelves.
During protests in Bahrain, banners read: “May our lives be sacrificed for you, Messenger of Allah.”
The Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) defined Macron’s statements as “irresponsible” and stated that he aims to spread a culture of hate among the people.
Saudi NGO Supports France
The hashtag to boycott French products was trending second on social media sites.
Despite this public sentiment, Secretary General of the Saudi Arabia-based Organization of Islamic Cooperation Muhammad bin Abdul Karim Al-Issa in an interview to MBC news channel called on Muslims to remain passive when in minority and to abide by the laws of the land.
Known for being close to Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, to whom he is also a religious advisor, Al-Issa asked Muslims not to question the practices, laws and institutions of the countries they reside in, as he claimed that these practices, laws and institutions are cornerstones of a country’s safety and stability, strengthening social harmony.
Many messages and statements were posted on the official Twitter account of OIC, with the tag “separatism”.
In Libya, where France has long been accused of supporting the illegitimate putschist leader, member of the Presidential Council of the Government of National Accord, Mohammed Ammari Zayed condemned Macron’s statements. The High Council of State called for ending economic relations with France and to annul the deal with French oil giant Total.
Similarly, Libyan social media users have called for a boycott of French goods, especially food items and fast moving consumer goods. The protests took place in Bani Walid and Tarhuna provinces.
Arabic posts on Twitter tagged with #ProphetMohammad and #TheProphetisOurRedline have found their way to the top trends.
Algerians call for action
Anti-colonialist group Movement of Society for Peace in Algeria called on President Abdelmadjit Tebboune to take a stand against Macron.
All government institutions of the country, chiefly the Presidency, were asked to condemn Macron’s statements.
Similarly, Algerian social media users widely called for a boycott of France.
Huge support for boycott campaign in Morocco
Morocco’s Foreign Ministry said the insistence on republishing the insulting cartoons shows the immaturity of the French authorities.
It added that insults and provocations against Islam cannot be counted as freedom of speech.
The campaign to boycott French products, initially started on social media, has won the support of thinkers, academics and intellectuals.
Protesters set French flag on fire in Lebanon
In Lebanon, a former French colony, protesters came out on the streets.
Protesters in Lebanon’s northern city of Tripoli set the French flag on fire.
Citizens in the city of Sidon protested the publishing of cartoons insulting Prophet Muhammad.
Convoys of cars also came out on the streets playing hymns praising Prophet Muhammad.
Lebanese mufti Sheikh Abdul Latif Deryan said in a statement that hate speech cannot be regarded as freedom of speech.
French products taken off shelves in Jordan
Jordanian Foreign Ministry condemned the publication of the cartoons under the guise of freedom of expression and the misleading association of Islam with terrorism.
Extensive calls for boycotting French products were made with photographs of some retails chains removing French products off the shelves doing the rounds.
Reactions from al-Azhar in Egypt
Al Azhar Sheikh Ahmad al-Tayyeb in Egypt said in a statement that we are witnessing a planned campaign for dragging Islam into a political conflict and creating chaos that starts with a deliberate attack against Prophet Muhammad.
Egyptians living in Turkey called for the boycott of French products and tourism.
Call to cancel Francophone Summit in Tunisia
Hundreds of protesters gathered in the southern province of Tataouine called for the boycott of French products with banners that read “Prophet Mohammad is our red line”.
Independent deputy in the Tunisian parliament, Yassine Ayari, as a reaction to the insults against Prophet Muhammad and Muslim beliefs in France demanded the cancellation of the Francophone Summit that was planned to be held in Tunisia.
Azmi Abdul Hamid, the chairman of Consultative Council of Islamic Organization (MAPIM), said in a statement that Macron’s statements clearly indicate his ignorance about Islam and the state of Muslims.
Hamid said that Macron speaks unilaterally while mentioning Muslims’ radical tendencies but does not condemn hate crime committed against Muslims in France and Europe.
* Writing by Dilan Pamuk in Ankara
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