France has urged Arab and Muslim-majority countries to stop campaigns for a boycott of French products and businesses, following calls for action over France’s publication of satirical cartoons of the Islamic Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him).
A statement released by the French Foreign Ministry yesterday condemned calls for a boycott of goods made and sold by French businesses such as food products and fashion accessories, as well as urging protests against France’s recent actions to stop. “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,” the statement said.
Over the past few weeks, French President Emmanuel Macron has been launching a fierce campaign against what he called “Islamist separatism”. That accelerated following an extremist’s beheading of a French teacher over his display of caricatures of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) in his class, resulting in a government crackdown on Muslim non-governmental organisation within the country.
Macron also refused to condemn the disrespectful cartoons being released, stating that the country will not give up making the caricatures of the Islamic Prophet based on freedom of expression. In a tweet he posted yesterday, he stressed that “We will not give in, ever,” claiming that “We respect all differences in a spirit of peace. We do not accept hate speech and defend reasonable debate.”
The French government’s crackdown on the French Muslim community and its insistence on publishing the cartoons have been seen as insulting by many Muslims around the world, and have prompted some in the Middle East to begin the boycott.
Kuwait’s Union of Consumer Co-operative Societies, for example, has reportedly removed products by French companies from store shelves. According to the UK-based news agency Reuters, the union’s head said: “All French products have been removed from all Consumer Cooperative Societies.” The move, which was taken independently of the Kuwaiti government, was due to “repeated insults” of the Prophet.
Calls to implement similar policies have also been made in countries such as Qatar, Jordan and Saudi Arabia. No government-endorsed moves have been implemented so far, however, and there has not been any government condemnation apart from Turkey.
The issue has strained relations between France and Turkey even further, with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan hinting that Macron suffers from mental health issues. “What is the problem of this person called Macron with Muslims and Islam? Macron needs treatment on a mental level,” Erdogan said during a party meeting last week.
He condemned the Macron’s targeting of the Muslim community, asking: “What else can be said to a head of state who does not understand freedom of belief and who behaves in this way to millions of people living in his country who are members of a different faith?”
In response to Erdogan’s remarks, France pulled its ambassador from Turkey, condemning the Turkish president’s “excess and rudeness.”