By Naadiya Adams
Over 20 European Muslim organisations have called on French President Emmanuel Macron to end his “divisive rhetoric”, as the fallout between France and the Muslim world continues.
In an open letter published at the weekend, the organizations said Macron failed to show strong moral leadership after the killings of three church goers and a teacher.
“Maligning Islam and your own Muslim citizens, closing mainstream mosques, Muslim and humanitarian rights organisations, and using this as an opportunity to stir up further hatred, has given further encouragement to racists and violent extremists,” the signatories said, urging Macron to rethink what they called his “unilateral assault on Muslims, Islam and Prophet Muhammad ﷺ.”
The Muslim world has been up in arms amid comments by Macron defending caricatures of Prophet Muhammad ﷺ as freedom of expression. These comments caused a global uproar where tens of thousands of Muslims in countries such as Pakistan, Bangladesh, Egypt, Lebanon, Jerusalem and various other countries gathered in protest for what they believe is Islamophobia.
In Afghanistan, angry members of Hezb-i-Islami set the French flag alight. Its leader, Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, warned Macron if he does not “control the situation, we are going to a third world war and Europe will be responsible”.
Macron however claims that while he understands the sentiments shared by Muslims, his role is to protect the right to freedom of speech and expression while maintaining calm in the country. He also mentioned that the “Radical Islam” he claimed to fight is a threat to everyone, particularly Muslims.
“Today in the world there are people who distort Islam and in the name of this religion that they claim to defend, they kill, they slaughter … today there is violence practiced by some extremist movements and individuals in the name of Islam,” Macron said.
“More than 80 percent of the victims of terrorism are Muslims and this is a problem for all of us.”
The protests come as tensions rise between France and the Muslim nations, fueled by Macron referring to Islam as a religion globally “in crisis.”
The situation worsened with the beheading of a French teacher for showing his students cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ.
The Prophet ﷺ is deeply respected by Muslims and any visual portrayal of him is forbidden in Islam. The Muslim world views these depictions as offensive and seemingly aims to link Islam with terrorism.
While Muslims condemned the killing, it is feared that a backlash against Muslim organizations may be on the cards.
The trench deepened further when a Tunisian man killed three people at a church in the Mediterranean city of Nice last week. The same day, a Saudi man stabbed and lightly wounded a security guard at the French consulate in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.
Leaders of many Muslim countries sympathize with France after the attacks, and maintain that violence is not the answer.