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France has urged Arab World to end calls for a boycott over President’s Defense of Cartoons

France has called on Arab countries to end calls for a boycott of its goods to protest President Macron’s defense of the right to show cartoons of Prophet Muhammad (PUBH). The French foreign ministry said the baseless calls for a boycott were being floated by a “radical minority”. French products have been taken down from the shelves of Kuwait, Qatar and Jordan. Meanwhile, demonstrations have been carried in Syria, Gaza, and Libya. The strong reaction came in response of Macron’s controversial decision to allow the exhibition of sketches considered blasphemous by Muslim and Arab world. Macron led the controversial move after the beheading of a French teacher Samuel Paty who used cartoons in his classroom to teach freedom of speech to his pupils.

The French Premier said, Samuel Paty “was killed because Islamists want our future”, but France would “not give up our cartoons”. Satirical depictions of the Prophet Muhammad can seriously offend an average Muslim because of the Islamic belief that overtly opposes the picture making of Prophet, terming it a blasphemy. The French Republic, which claims to be a secular nation-state, considers it a curb on freedom of expression and views that limiting others freedom to protect the sentiments of one particular community harms national unity.

On Sunday, the president tweeted: “We will not give in, ever. We respect all differences in a spirit of peace. We do not accept hate speech and defend reasonable debate. We will always be on the side of human dignity and universal values.”

Political leaders in Pakistan and Turkey have condemned Emmanuel Macron’s decision, alleging him for not respecting “freedom of belief” and legitimizing the hatred against millions of Muslims in France and other parts of the world.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Sunday for a second time blasted Macrons saying he should go for mental checks for being intolerant towards Islam and Muslims. Similar comments pushed France to call its Ambassador to Ankara back for consultations on Saturday.

Boycott on French Products

French goods have been removed from the supermarket shelves in Jordan, Kuwait and Qatar on Sunday in response to Macrons’ statements and actions. French-made cosmetic items were no more on shelves. In Kuwait, a major retail union has agreed on a boycott of French-made products. The non-governmental Union of Consumer Co-operative Societies in a statement announced it had issued the orders to protest “repeated insults” against the Prophet Muhammad.

In a statement, French foreign ministry responded to the calls for boycott: “These calls for boycott are baseless and should stop immediately, as well as all attacks against our country, which are being pushed by a radical minority.”

Kuwait was among the first countries to boycott French goods
Kuwait and other Arab countries boycotts French products

Online campaigns on social media platforms, calling on a similar ban on French goods were seen in UAE, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Iraq and other parts of the Arab and Muslim world. A hashtag calling for the boycott of French supermarket chain Carrefour was #2 trend in Saudi Arabia, the largest Economy in the Arab world. Anti-French protests were observed in Gaza Strip, Syria, Libya and a couple other Muslim countries.

Background of the Issue

Emmanuel Macrons who recently doubled down on his defense of the French Secularism – or laïcité – and criticism of radical Islam after the killing of Paty, has clearly angered the Muslims of the world. Making a mention of Frenchman in a speech, Erdogan said: “What’s the problem of the individual called Macron with Islam and with the Muslims?”

Meanwhile, Pakistan’s Prime Minister, Imran Khan accused Macron of attacking Islam, clearly without having any understanding of it”. 

“President Macron has attacked and hurt the sentiments of millions of Muslims in Europe & across the world,” he tweeted.

Earlier this month, before the killing of Paty, the French leader had already signaled the tougher laws to counter the “Islamist separatism” in his country. He cautioned a minority of France’s 6mn Muslims were on the verge of founding a “counter-society”, describing their religion “in crisis”.

Charlie Hebdo cartoons for all the wrong reasons have a history of polarizing French Republic and creating divisions among the people of opposite Faiths. Caricaturing the Islamic Prophet has always fueled violence in the European state. On Jan 7, 2015, 12 people lost their lives in a gun attack on Charlie Hebdo offices when two Muslim brothers Saïd and Chérif Kouachi stormed their way into the offices of Satirical magazine publisher. Some in Western European nation have assailed Marcon’s move akin to legitimizing Islamophobia in Europe and the world.