Outcry Over French President’s Islamophobic Statements
Muslims around the world have faced Islamophobia in many different forms and this includes what Emmanual Macron, the president of France, said about the recent attacks that have occurred in France. On October 16, an 18-year-old Chechen refugee beheaded 47-year-old schoolteacher Samual Paty after he showed caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) to his students. This was followed by another attack that took place last Thursday when a man wielding a knife killed three churchgoers. The prime minister of France as well as authorities attributed these attacks to Islamic extremism and because of this, many people believe that the prime minister’s remarks and defense of his people’s right to depict the Prophet (PBUH) further anti-Muslim sentiment and fuel Islamophobia.
In response to the attacks, Macron said “We will continue… We will defend the freedom that you taught so well and we will bring secularism.” He also stated that France would “not give up cartoons, drawings, even if others back down”. His vow to defend the nation’s freedom of speech and crack down on Islamic extremism has once again set France’s secularism against religious sensitivities.
He also states to protect French values and beliefs and declared measures to combat “Islamist separatism” which is the lack of ability of French Muslims to fully integrate themselves into French society and adopt the government’s secular nature due to their establishment of separate community centers, activities, stores, and mosques. According to DW, these measures include a crackdown on hate speech and the closure of organizations harboring radical Islamists. A recent poll reveals that these measures are supported by a majority of French citizens and they mostly appeal to right-wing and far-right voters.
As a result of this statement made by the French president, Muslim leaders all over the world have called for French brands to be boycotted. Many Arab countries are removing French products from their shelves and hashtags such as “#BoycottFrenchProducts” and “#MacronApologizeToMuslims” trended for several days on social media. Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan stated,
“Macron needs some sort of mental treatment. What else is there to say about a head of state who doesn't believe in the freedom of religion and behaves this way against the millions of people of different faiths living in his own country?”
While the prime minister of Pakistan tweeted,
“Hallmark of a leader is he unites human beings, as Mandela did, rather than dividing them. This is a time when Pres[ident] Macron could have put healing touch & denied space to extremists rather than creating further polarisation & marginalisation that inevitably leads to radicalisation.”
There have also been several protests across the world that have been protesting Macron’s declaration to protect France’s right to depict the Prophet (PBUH).These protests have been both peaceful and violent. In Pakistan, 2,000 people tried to march towards the French embassy but were met with teargas and police batons. In Lebanon, marched toward the official residence of French ambassador but were also met with the police. Some protestors started to throw stones at the police which the police then responded to with teargas.
In Turkey, protestors filled a masjid and began chanting religious slogans while holding signs that criticized Macron. In Ethiopia, several people began peacefully protesting after Friday prayers. Protests, both peaceful and violent, occurred in several other countries all across the Muslim world responding to Macron’s statements.
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