by Khadijah Ali (Main Stories, Crescent International Vol. 49, No. 9, Rabi' al-Awwal, 1442)
Muslims worldwide have condemned French President Emmanuel Macron’s insulting remarks about Islam and the promotion of blasphemous cartoons of the Prophet (pbuh). Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan questioned Macaron’s mental health amid boycott of French products in several Muslim countries over the issue. Erdogan said on October 25 that the French president had “lost his mind”.
Last month, in a gratuitous insult, Macron described Islam as a religion “in crisis” worldwide. How and why this is the case, he did not say but it evoked strong reaction from the Muslim world. Muslims in France feared, quite rightly, that it would increase Islamophobia where it is already raging as it is in a number of other European countries. Western liberalism in general and French claims to liberty, fraternity and freedom in particular end when it comes to the rights of Muslims. They, their faith and their revered personalities are considered fair game for Western insults.
France has been embroiled in this vicious campaign against Muslims for decades under the rubric of freedom of speech but it is not an absolute. There are restrictions on certain kinds of speech in all Western countries including France. The freedom of speech argument is invoked only when Muslims are attacked or ridiculed.
What is appalling about Macron’s attack is that he is no ordinary citizen or even an ordinary politician like a member of parliament who can be dismissed as an aberration. He is the head of state and his words carry weight. Many people in the US have condemned Donald Trump for his intemperate remarks yet in Macron’s case, Western politicians have come to his aid. It clearly indicates that there is deep-seated hatred of Muslims, their faith and their revered personalities like the Prophet (pbuh).
As if his insulting comments were not bad enough, on October 23 the cartoons that were first published in the satirical magazine, Charlie Hebdo were projected onto government buildings in France. The Charlie Hebdo affair, as it came to be called, led to a major crisis in France.
The latest bout of French insults against Islam erupted after the beheading of a teacher, Samuel Paty by an 18-year-old Chechen. Paty had shown caricatures of the Prophet (pbuh) in a class on freedom of expression. Was the teacher ignorant of Muslim sentiment? He could have chosen some other example to illustrate freedom of expression. The choice of the insulting cartoons was deliberate: to humiliate Muslims. It was bound to evoke strong reaction. Perhaps that was the intent although the teacher may have thought that it would lead to protests and garner him some publicity.
Following attack on the teacher, Macron described Islam as a religion “in crisis” worldwide. He also insisted by tweeting on October 25, “We will not give in, ever,” presumably meaning that he will continue to insult Islam and the Prophet (pbuh). This prompted Jean-Luc Melanchon, leader of the left-wing Unbowed France Party and a member of parliament, to ridicule him.
“Macron has totally lost control of the situation. By Erdogan’s statements, France is demeaned, humiliated and ridiculed. What is Macron’s strategy? What does he plan to do besides tweet?”
Deeply anguished by the insulting cartoons, Muslims worldwide have taken to social media to condemn Macron. People have used the English hashtags #BoycottFrenchProducts and #Islam and #NeverTheProphet in Arabic. These appear to have had the desired effect. Several Arab trade associations have announced boycotts of French products. In Qatar, Kuwait and a number of other countries, store shelves have been emptied of French products. Qatar University administration postponed, indefinitely, a French Cultural Week event citing the “deliberate abuse of Islam and its symbols”.
There have also been street protests in a number of countries including the UK, Kuwait, Qatar, Palestine, Egypt, Algeria, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Bangladesh.
In addition to Turkish President Erdogan’s remarks, Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan sent a letter on October 26 to Facebook owner Mark Zuckerberg. He urged him to block Islamophobic content just as he has blocked Holocaust deniers on his platform.
Pakistan’s Foreign Ministry called the French ambassador for a demarche over his president’s Islamophobic remarks. “The seeds of hate that are being cultivated today will polarise the society and have serious consequences,” Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi said in a statement. It also said he had written to the UN “to take notice and action against the hate-based narrative against Islam.” Qureshi has said that March 15 should be declared a day against Islamophobia. He will present a resolution in this regard at the Organization of Islamic Cooperation meeting.
Iran’s Majlis (parliament) also condemned on October 26 Macron’s defense of blasphemy against the Prophet (pbuh) under the guise of “freedom of speech.” Majlis members issued a statement saying by supporting acts of sacrilege against Islam, the French government “once again proved its evil nature.”
They said “enmity on the part of the deniers of Allah’s power presence towards Islam’s illuminating message goes back long in history.” They added that those seeking to attack divine prophets would usually resort to the “threadbare method of mockery.”
Statements of condemnation were also issued by Morocco’s foreign ministry as well as Jordan’s Islamic Affairs Minister Mohammed al-Khalayleh. The latter said “insulting” prophets was “not an issue of personal freedom but a crime that encourages violence.” Islamic resistance movements Hizbullah in Lebanon and Hamas in Occupied Palestine also issued statements condemning the French president.
The question, however, must be asked: why is the French government so hell-bent on insulting the Prophet (pbuh) and Islam? Despite the vile propaganda, Islam is spreading rapidly in France. There are six million Muslims in the country. They face great discrimination despite the fact that the vast majority is born there. Macron’s insulting remarks were intended to provoke a backlash against Muslims. It will no doubt occur but at the same time, there will be others who will study what Islam is all about. And Macron’s crude attempt will fail.
As Dr Amira Abo el-Fetouh wrote in her commentary in the Middle East Monitor, “Emmanuel Macron’s fierce campaign against Islam and Muslims has not come out of nowhere. It is the product of racism rooted deep within the French psyche. It is a crisis of French values not of Islam.”
Macron has a chequered history. At age 16, he was involved in a scandalous sex affair with his 40-year-old teacher, Brigitte Trogneux Auziere. She was married but their adulterous relationship continued. After an acrimonious divorce from her husband in 2006, Brigitte married Macron 18 months later. Like his predecessors, Macron has a pathological hatred of Islam. He will, however, burn in his own hatred.
Islam shall triumph, insha’Allah. That is Allah’s promise. As a poster in Nablus, Zionist occupied Palestine declared, decrying Macron’s insulting comment: “Clouds are not hurt by the barking of dogs.”