The backlash between Islamic countries and France over President Emmanuel Macron’s comments on Islam and freedom of speech is growing.
A rift between France and Muslim nations is growing after French President Emmanuel Macron said earlier this month that Islam was in “crisis”.
France is increasing security at religious sites as the interior minister said Tuesday that the country faces a “very high” risk of terrorist threats, amid growing geopolitical tensions following the beheading of a teacher who showed his class caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad.
In the wake of the murder of Samuel Paty, a teacher who was killed for showing students caricatures of Prophet Muhammad, French authorities have launched a crackdown on radical Islam, closing one mosque and raided several properties. Earlier in September, President Emmanuel Macron had pledged to fight “Islamist separatism” and to protect French values and principles.
The horrific beheading and murder on a French public street just yards from the school Samuel Paty taught. created a wave of public condemnation and mass protest.
French diplomats are trying to quell anger in Turkey and Arab nations amid anti-France protests and calls for boycotts of French goods in response to President Emmanuel Macron’s firm stance against Islamism in the wake of the Oct. 16 beheading. European allies have supported Macron, while Muslim-majority countries are angered by his defense of prophet cartoons they consider sacrilegious.
France’s national police have called for increased security at religious sites around the All Saint’s holiday this coming weekend, particularly noting online threats from extremists against Christians and moderate French Muslims.
Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin said on France-Inter radio that the terrorist threat remains “very high, because we have a lot of enemies from within and outside the country.”
He reiterated plans to try to disband Muslim groups seen as peddling dangerous radical views or with too much foreign financing. He accused Turkey and Pakistan in particular of “meddling in France’s internal business.”
“There is a battle against an Islamist ideology. We must not back down,” he said. But he insisted that “the Muslim faith has all its place in the republic.”
Some members of France’s largely moderate Muslim community are calling for calm, and defending the freedom of expression that the beheaded teacher was seeking to demonstrate.
The prophet cartoons deeply upset many Muslims around the world. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has led the charge against France, questioning Macron’s mental state, and France recalled its ambassador to Turkey for consultations, a first in French-Turkish diplomatic relations.
The reactions in many parts of the Muslim world are growing increasingly vociferous.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has criticised Macron, saying the French leader needed “mental checks” over his attitude towards Islam.
Across the Muslim world, some leaders have condemned France and Macron, including Saudi Arabia and Iran; while tens of thousands have attended protests in Bangladesh calling for a boycott of French goods.
Pakistans Prime Minister Imran Khan has expressed his dissatisfaction with Macron’s comments, saying that “Macron’s well-thought-of verbal attack on Islam has hurt the feelings of hundreds of millions of Muslims all over the world.”
Meanwhile Turkish economist Ugur Gurses sugested that it’s not a surprise that President Tayyip Recep Erdogan is escalating tensions with the West. One reason, Gurses said, is that Erdogan has failed to address Turkey’s economic problems that have been exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic.
“Polls show significantly declining support for the ruling party and its allies. Erdogan knows that if Europe or the US impose sanctions on Turkey then his votes will increase. That’s the reason why he’s in a fight with Macron and Trump,” he said.
According to Ilhan Uzgel, a professor for international relations at Ankara University, Erdogan’s main concern is to maintain support among voters. “Erdogan is unable to produce policies which could save the Turkish economy. And no one is surprised that he’s called on Turkish people to boycott French products. He doesn’t care at all whether he has a ‘belligerent’ image or not, the only thing that matters for him right now is to secure support among voters.”
Turkish President to feature on the cover of satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo
Things could escalate a little more next month when the satirical magazine Chalie Hebdo plan on feature the Turkish president on the front cover of its magazine
President Erdogan will grace the cover of the next edition of French satire magazine Charlie Hebdo, the publication said in a tweet, likely escalating a war of words between Erdogan and Western powers over freedom of speech.
The tweet showed a cover featuring a caricature of Erdogan sitting in a chair and lifting the dress of a woman to reveal her backside with the caption “Erdogan – he’s a lot of fun in private.”
The next Charlie Hebdo is set for release on Wednesday.
Erdogan : dans le privé, il est très drôle !— Charlie Hebdo (@Charlie_Hebdo_) October 27, 2020
? Laïcité : zoom sur le CCIF par @LaureDaussy
? Voyage dans la crackosphère parisienne par @AntonioFischet8 et Foolz
? Reportage à Lunéville et son théâtre par Juin
➡ Disponible demain ! pic.twitter.com/jxXqKrvXbK
Erdogan has been at the forefront of a wave of anger from Muslim majority countries after Charlie Hebdo opted to rerelease caricatures of the Islamic prophet Mohammed that had enraged Muslims a decade.
France has asked the EU to adopt measures against Turkey at the next summit
France has urged fellow European Union leaders to adopt measures against Turkey, after President Erdogan questioned President Macron’s mental health and called for a boycott of French goods.
“France is united and Europe is united. At the next European Council, Europe will have to take decisions that will allow it to strengthen the power balance with Turkey to better defend its interests and European values,” Trade Minister Franck Riester told lawmakers, without elaborating.
“France is united and Europe is united. At the next European Council, Europe will have to take decisions that will allow it to strengthen the power balance with Turkey to better defend its interests and European values,” Trade Minister Franck Riester told MPs, without specifying the measures that would be taken.
Earlier on Tuesday, the European Commission warned that Erdogan’s comments make Turkey’s stalled bid to join the EU an even more distant prospect.
“Calls for a boycott of products of any member state are contrary to the spirit of these obligations and will take Turkey even further away from the European Union,” a spokesman said.
Some French goods have been removed from supermarket shelves in several Middle Eastern countries including Qatar and Kuwait. Riester told reporters on Monday that the French government was not planning a reciprocal boycott against Turkish products.
Supporters and activists of the Islami Andolon Bangladesh, an Islamic political party, take part in a protest calling for the boycott of French products on Tuesday in Dhaka, Bangladesh. (Reuters)
Macron’s comments have also caused a backlash in several Arab states, among those political players who are close to Erdogan and the Muslim Brotherhood political movement.
In Jordan, a spokesman for the local branch of the Muslim Brotherhood condemned Macron’s comments as an “attack of the Islamic nation,” while the Foreign Ministry said the publication of the Muhammad cartoons had hurt the feelings of many Muslims.
In Libya, Mohammed Zayed, a member of the presidential council, was equally scathing and described Macron’s comments as “vicious claims.” The backdrop here is that the presidential council is led by Prime Minister Fayez Sarraj, whose government relies on support from Islamist parties. Moreover, the attacks on Macron are seen as a gesture of solidarity with Erdogan, whose government has supplied military and political support to Sarraj’s UN-recognized government in Tripoli in the conflict with Khalifa Haftar, who controls much of the east and south of Libya.
Kadyrov to Macron: ‘You are forcing people into terrorism’
Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyron has said that President Emmanuel Macron was contributing to the radicalisation of people by insisting that caricatures of Prophet Muhammad fell under free speech.
“You are forcing people into terrorism, pushing people towards it, not leaving them any choice, creating the conditions for the growth of extremism in young people’s heads,” Kadyron wrote on Instagram.
“You can boldly call yourself the leader and inspiration of terrorism in your country,” Kadyrov wrote, addressing Macron.”
Meanwhile, Macron remains adamant in his defence of the French principles of free speech and secularism, a strict separation of religion and government institutions.
The measures he announced, such as a crackdown on hate speech and the closure of organisations harbouring radical Islamists, are supported by a majority of French citizens, according to a recent poll. And they particularly appeal to right-wing and far-right voters.
With an eye on the presidential election in April 2022, Macron is clearly looking to shore up conservative support. But it’s far from clear whether his strategy to woo those voters will pay off. As Jean-Marie Le Pen, the founder of far-right party Front National (now called the National Rally), once put it: “The French will always prefer the original to a copy.”