France urged countries in the Middle East to stop calls for boycotting French products, amid controversy over the use of cartoons of the Prophet Mohammad in a French school class on freedom of expression whose teacher was then murdered by someone French President Emmanuel Macron labeled an “Islamist.”
The French Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement on Sunday that the calls for boycotting French products in several Middle Eastern countries and calls for demonstrations against France are “baseless and should stop immediately.”
The statement added that all “attacks” against France must also stop and that they were “being pushed by a radical minority.”
The ministry said that it mobilized its diplomatic network to explain France’s stances to its partners and called on governments to distance themselves from any boycott calls and “ensure the safety of French nationals.”
Macron had criticized those he labelled as “Islamists” and defended the publication of cartoons depicting the Prophet Mohammed.
This came after a French teacher was beheaded last week near Paris after he had shown cartoons of the Prophet during a class about free speech. Macron had said the slain teacher was a “victim of an Islamist terrorist attack.”
The French president also said: “We will not give up cartoons,” in a ceremony to honor the teacher last week. He added: “He was killed because Islamists want our future,” while vowing “they will never have it.”
The incident has ignited debate about respecting religions and spurred many leaders in the Islamic world to condemn the crime but stress the importance of respecting prophets. There have been several social media campaigns in Muslim countries calling for boycotting French products.
Kuwait’s retail co-ops have pulled French products in boycott. The non-governmental Union of Consumer Co-operative Societies, which groups more than 70 establishments, issued the boycott directive in an October 23 circular.
Several co-ops visited by Reuters on Sunday had cleared the shelves of items such as hair and beauty products made by French companies.
The Organization of Islamic Cooperation on Friday decried the brutal murder that has shaken France but also criticized the “justification for blasphemy-based harassment of any religion in the name of freedom of expression.”
- With AFP, Reuters