Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has warned that French President Emmanuel Macron is encouraging violence by defending cartoons of the prophet Mohammed.
The French president has become entangled in accusations of Islamophobia and racism in the midst of a debate on freedom of expression and blasphemy in France. Macron took a traditionally secularist line by refusing to condemn those accused of blasphemy and promised to defend himself against conservative Islamic feelings.
Iran is among the Muslim nations that criticize Macron. “In today’s world, peace and stability in our society will only be maintained if we respect each other,” Rouhani said in a cabinet meeting on Wednesday, according to the state-backed news agency Mehr.
“To insult a prophet is nothing more than an encouragement to violence and an immoral act,” he added. “If the West is sincere in its efforts for peace and security, it should stop interfering in the internal affairs of Muslims.
“It is a surprise that those countries that claim to respect freedom, rights and justice encourage people to insult each other and important personalities. People in the West should understand that the Prophet of Islam is a love for all Muslims and freedom-seekers in the world,” the President said. “To insult the Prophet is to insult all Muslims, all prophets and all human values.
Tensions are simmering in France and throughout the Muslim world over the cartoons published by the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, which has always published inflammatory cartoons mocking religion, including Islam. The office of Charlie Hebdo was attacked in 2015 in the Arabian Peninsula by militant Islamists who profess al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, killing 12 people.
A new controversy erupted when Charlie Hebdo re-published cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed-which were considered deeply offensive and blasphemous by many Muslims-before a trial for alleged complicity in the attack.
Macron refused to condemn this move. “It is never for a President of the Republic to judge the editorial choice of a journalist or news editor, never. Because we have freedom of the press,” Macron said.
Earlier this month, Macron condemned what he called “Islamist separatism,” saying that Islam was “in crisis today all over the world,” causing anger throughout the Muslim world. Two weeks later, the school teacher Samuel Paty was murdered after showing his students cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed.
After the murder of Paty, Macron said that France would “continue the fight for freedom” and added: “We will not give up cartoons and drawings, even if others give in”.
Macron awarded France’s highest honor – the Légion d’honneur – posthumously to Paty, condemning the “disastrous conspiracy” and “hatred of others” that led to the death of the teacher. Macron said that Paty “embodied the republic”.
Macron faced widespread anger in the Muslim world as several retailers and institutions imposed a ban on French products and events. Besides Iran, Turkey has also spoken out against Macron’s government.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan called on Muslims to boycott French goods, he added: “What is the problem that this person called Macron has with Islam and Muslims? Macron needs psychological treatment”.