Macron had caricatures of the prophet Mohammed depicted on public buildings. In doing so, the French president invokes freedom of opinion – and insults Muslims. Arab countries react with a boycott call against France.
Following statements by French President Emmanuel Macron on Islam, a new dispute over caricatures of the Prophet Mohammed is looming. Several Arab countries started a boycott against France on Sunday. Traders in Jordan, Kuwait and Qatar took French goods from their stores.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan accused the French President of Islamophobia, questioning his mental health and describing Macron, among other things, as a case of illness that needed to be examined. In protest, Paris called back his ambassador from Ankara – an incident that had never happened before, as Élysée circles confirmed.
The background to this are statements and actions by French President Emmanuel Macron on Wednesday. He had sided with those who want to show or publish insulting caricatures of the Prophet Mohammed. Macron also ordered the cartoons to be displayed on some public buildings.
France will not “renounce caricatures and drawings, even if others withdraw from them,” Macron said during a commemoration of the death of the teacher Samuel Paty. Paty had shown caricatures of Mohammed in class and had been beheaded in the street by an 18-year-old man. The suspect was then shot dead by the police.
Macron: “We will continue”
Macron defended his position on Twitter on Sunday evening, citing freedom of expression. Hate speech was not accepted and reasonable debate was defended. “We will always be on the side of human dignity and fundamental values.” Macron also spread the message in Arabic and English. “Our history is that of fighting against tyranny and fanaticism. We will continue,” he wrote in French.
Caricatures of the Prophet Mohammed had already triggered criticism and protests in the Islamic world on several occasions. Relations between the Muslim world and France could deteriorate. The depiction of the controversial caricatures on public buildings in France met with indignation in many places. In addition, it aggravates the bilateral tensions between Nato partners Turkey and France, which already cross over on numerous issues. For Muslims, films or pictures showing or even insulting the Prophet Mohammed are offensive.
In view of Macron’s statements, the influential Al-Azhar school in Cairo warned against a campaign against Islam. In Kuwait, according to the newspaper “Al-Kabas,” 50 consumer cooperatives declared that they had removed all French goods from their stores. In Qatar, supermarket chains also declared that they would remove French goods from their shelves until further notice. In social networks, videos were shown of employees of a supermarket in Jordan’s capital Amman removing French dairy products from the refrigerated shelves. Users spread the names of French brands on the Internet and called for a boycott, and hashtags were also posted.
France demanded an immediate end to the calls for a boycott. These would distort the positions defended by France in favor of freedom of conscience, opinion and religion and the rejection of any call for hatred, said a statement by the Foreign Ministry on Sunday. The statements would be instrumentalized and politicized by a radical minority.
Caricatures have also triggered protests in the past
In early 2006, more than 150 people died in street protests against Mohammed cartoons. The trigger at that time were cartoons in the Danish newspaper “Jyllands-Posten”. In 2015, twelve people died in an attack on the French satirical magazine “Charlie Hebdo”, which had also shown defamatory caricatures of the Prophet.
The Organization for Islamic Cooperation (OIC) condemned the publication of defamatory cartoons showing the Prophet. Such behavior “damages the Muslim-French relations”. The Grand Imam of Cairo, Ahmed al-Tajib, spoke of a systematic campaign to push Islam into political struggles. The Jordanian Foreign Ministry declared that the publications hurt the feelings of Muslims. In a statement, the Moroccan Foreign Ministry condemned the further publication of the “heinous cartoons”. Under no circumstances could freedom of expression justify an insult to Islam.
Erdoğan: “What problem does this person named Macron have with Islam and Muslims?”.
Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan accused Macron of Islamophobia in a series of tweets. “President Macron has attacked and hurt the feelings of millions of Muslims in Europe and around the world,” he also wrote. Khan also called for a ban on Islamophobic content on Facebook. The government in Islamabad published a letter to that effect on Sunday evening, addressed to company founder and boss Mark Zuckerberg.
“What kind of problem does this person named Macron have with Islam and Muslims,” asked Erdoğan at an event on Saturday. Macron needs psychological treatment, the Turkish president added. His French counterpart did not understand freedom of religion. At the same event, Erdoğan had also described the storming of the Berlin Mevlana mosque on Wednesday with 150 police officers as Islamophobic.
France’s Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian declared that there was a desire to stir up hatred against France. This was also expressed in the “direct insults” against Macron from “the highest level of the Turkish state”. Paris also criticized that there had been no official condemnation from the Turkish side of the killing of the teacher or solidarity for France.
Turkey rejected the accusation on Sunday evening. The Turkish ambassador in Paris had expressed his regret, said the Foreign Ministry in a statement. Turkey regretted the murder of the teacher “as a country that has been fighting for years against all kinds of terrorism and violence” as well as those of victims of similar events, it said.
Last November, the Turkish president had already questioned the mental health of the Frenchman. At that time, Macron had attested the defense alliance Nato “brain death”. Erdoğan said afterwards that Macron should better have his own brain death examined.
TRT German and agencies.