The cartoons of Muhammad cost the life of French teacher Samuel Paty on October 18. The murder of a Chechen immigrant caused hysteria not only in France but also in the Muslim world. However, not for the sin committed in the name of their religion, but for the French President’s impulse to get rid of radical Islamism in a country where in recent years he has been the cause of murder and attack on human lives and freedom of speech. Instead of condemning the assassination, representatives of Islamic countries are calling for a boycott of French goods and the convening of further protests. Because of the cartoons of Muhammad, flags are burning again and strong words are falling.
Both camps took to the streets. The French aimed to honor the memory of the murdered teacher, a symbol of freedom of speech, and to condemn terrorist acts. Muslims not only in the Middle East express dissent with the depiction of the Prophet Muhammad and an insult to religion.
Incident, which is now moving the world, took place on October 18 in France. For the Chechen young man, the pretext for cutting off the cantor’s head was that the cantor showed cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad to the class as part of a discussion on free speech. Despite allowing Muslim students to leave the room so as not to “touch them”, one of the parents of the student, who was allegedly not present at the day, began calling for social punishment on the teacher. The situation gradually escalated in the investigation of inspections and by the police, which seemingly ended with murder.
Among other things, a discussion has opened up again about what is actually offensive to Muslims and what is not. For example, the situation in China, where Muslims are being locked up and largely oppressed by another nation, does not seem to be causing any upheaval in the Islamic world. However, the current situation between France and the Islamic countries is causing political tensions, which are also affecting the mood in society.
France will not give up
France immediately condemned the attack. Not only does she consider the cartoons as proof of free speech, which was also reminded by President Emmanuel Macron after the attack. “We will not give up cartoons,” he said at the teacher’s memorial last week. He then emphasized his enthusiasm for defending the freedoms of the French in tweets published in Arabic and English. “We will never give up,” he wrote again on Sunday. However, he added that France would not tolerate expressions of hatred and respected all cultural differences. The detail of tolerance was not enough not to stir up passions in the East.
The University of Qatar has postponed its French Cultural Week indefinitely, saying its administration considers insults to Islam and its symbols to be unacceptable. In Kuwait, a number of stores have removed French products from their shelves, such as Kiri cheese, Perrier sparkling water and Activia yoghurt.
Social media in Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates are calling for non-shopping at the Carrefour retail chain. The owner of these stores in the Middle East has stated that the brand is fully owned and operated in this region by Majid Al Futtaim, based in the United Arab Emirates. The company noted that it employs 37,000 people and is “proud to come from the region.” Protests took place in Iraq, Turkey and the Gaza Strip, and the Pakistani parliament passed a resolution condemning the publication of cartoons of the prophet.
Dozens of protesters gathered in front of the French embassy in central Baghdad on Monday. Cartoons of the French president stood out from the crowd with traces of shoes imprinted across his face. The rally also took place in the Gaza Strip in front of the French Cultural Center, where people held banners depicting Macron’s photographs with a large “X” across their faces. In Pakistan, protesters burned the French flag.
Like the Jews during the war
The loudest critic is Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who recommended Macron a mental health test. “Don’t attach importance to French goods, don’t buy them,” Erdogan called on the Turks on Monday. He said Muslims were now “exposed to a lynching campaign similar to that against Jews in Europe before World War II,” adding that “European leaders should tell the French president to stop the hate campaign.” France responded by recalling its ambassador to Turkey. The French ambassadors again stepped on the rug in Jordan and Pakistan, where they expressed deep disapproval of France’s actions. Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan has accused the French leader of supporting anti-Muslim sentiments. However, none of the leaders of the Muslim countries publicly condemned the killing of the French teacher.
Images of the Prophet Muhammad are widely considered taboo in Islam and are offended by many Muslims. However, state secularism – laïcité – is central to French national identity, and “restrictions on freedom of speech to protect the feelings of one particular community undermine unity.” They call the murdered teacher at home a national symbol of French secular ideals.
Macron’s government is preparing a bill to eradicate what he calls “Islamist separatism.” According to the president, he creates a parallel culture in France that rejects French laws and norms. He added that Islam is “a religion that is going through a crisis around the world.” His attitude provoked the anger of both ordinary people and some political leaders in the Muslim world.
Meanwhile, Twitter has been criticized by people who consider France’s attitude to be hypocritical and biased towards Muslims. This was compounded by the widely shared argument that while cartoons of Muslims are seen by the West as an honest game under the protection of freedom of speech, images of Jews are seen as expressions of hatred. Egypt’s chief spiritual sheikh, Ahmed el-Tayeb, who is also the great imam of Al-Azhar, the supreme seat of Sunni Islam in teaching, also accused hypocrisy of those who “justify the insult of the Prophet of Islam.”
In France, a law addressing the country’s role during the Nazi occupation specifically mentions that anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial are crimes, but can also be used to prosecute anti-Muslim discrimination – or hate speech in general.
However, attacks perpetrated in the name of Islam are also condemned by Muslims themselves, such as those living in France. According to them, these acts of violence have nothing to do with faith or values. The Organization of Islamic Cooperation has also joined France. The topic is also controversial in the territory of Muslim countries. Diana Moukalled, a Lebanese writer and co-editor of the independent news site Daraj, criticized that a large proportion of Muslims are more outraged by the cartoon than by the murder of a French teacher. Others have condemned the attack, but on the other hand they feel affected by the cartoons.