Comments made by French President Emmanuel Macron in the aftermath of the beheading
of a school teacher by a Muslim teenager have caused a furore in many parts of the world.
The world was taken aback by another jolt that could be described as anything but unexpected. The remarks of the French president, Emmanuel Macron, vindicating the cartoons depicting Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) in a pejorative tone have met widespread anger around the world and contempt from Muslims around the globe. This is not the first instance, however, when the French regime has voiced its support to such nefarious acts in the guise of ‘freedom of speech’. In any event, the outright proclamation of continuing on this path and launching a crackdown against the Muslims is probably the first direct statement by any political figure in French history. To analyze the significance of the current situation that continues to deteriorate, one should go back into the historical narrative of France’s action and take a look at the events that led to the crisis in the first place.
The French parliament went into session following the death of a French schoolteacher, Samuel Patty. The history teacher was decapitated by a Chechen refugee teenager on account of discussing the caricatures of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) in his class as a form of freedom of speech. The teenager was later shot by the police and peace protests ensued following the tragedy. The French government, however, took a much unexpected stance when President Macron stated “the need to reform Islam” by a thorough crackdown against the parties involved and the radical Muslims. He further stated that his country [France] “would not give up cartoons”. Following these advocated statements, the insulting sketches from the infamous Charlie Hebdo magazine were publicly projected on the walls of Toulouse and Montpellier, symbolizing secularism and freedom of speech.
The protests came to a boiling point in France and other parts of the world. The derogatory remarks of the French president were condemned in no uncertain terms. The rage was further fuelled when a mosque was ordered to be sealed by the French government in the name of the “fight against radical Islamism” as stated by the French Interior Minister, Gerald Darmanin. The outrage further aggravated worldwide and continued to grow as President Macron referred to Islam as “a religion in crises across the world, Muslims [having] ideologies that defend separatist ideas”.
Turkey was the first country to call for a boycott of French products and the shunning of French items. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan immediately termed the statements of President Macron as “impudence and rudeness” and described him [Macron] as being in need of “mental treatment”. Similar reactions followed in Pakistan, Kuwait, Morocco and various other Muslim nations. Iran called back their ambassador from France, further emphasizing their strong views. The Saudi Kingdom rather astonishingly asked the Muslim nations to “remain passive” and follow the laws of the country they reside in, that is, supporting the French narrative.
The situation stems from similar events that occurred following the Charlie Hebdo shooting in 2015 when 17 people were brutally murdered in the terrorist attack at the Paris offices of the magazine. The murdered victims included 11 journalists allegedly involved in publishing the distasteful sketches of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). The current crisis can be said to be an extension to the violence. The French government gave a much more passive response to the killings back then, unlike the position of reprisals they have taken now. With the Corona pandemic growing and French President Macron issuing orders for lockdown to curb the threat of Covid further spreading with the entire Muslim community on the roads, this is a very dangerous situation France has gotten into.
The Western world is a champion of tolerance and this includes France. President Macron may have played low-key this far but now he has emerged as somewhat of an extremist and this does not augur well for a world in which Islam is the second largest religion. If there are restrictions on using derogatory language against the Holocaust or presenting it in a wrong light, similar reverence must be shown towards Islam and the Holy Prophet (PBUH).