Morocco’s former Head of Government, Abdelilah Benkirane, has encouraged Moroccans to participate in peaceful forms of protest, such as boycott campaigns, rather than violent acts.
“If you want to protest and boycott [products], it is your right,” Benkirane said, “but it is absolutely forbidden to assault people that have no relationship with us.”
The former head of government made the statement during a live Facebook stream on Thursday, October 29. Benkirane’s public appearance came a few hours after an extremist killed three people in a church in Nice, southeastern France.
The former politician initially scheduled his live stream on Facebook to congratulate Moroccans for the religious Mawlid celebration. The event, which commemorates the birthday of Prophet Muhammad, coincided with the extremist attack in France.
“I wanted to congratulate you today with joy, but as soon as I began my day, I read about the attack in France, in which the suspect appears to be a Muslim,” Benkirane said.
He began his speech by condemning the attack and denouncing anyone supporting such acts. He especially criticized migrants or refugees who go looking for a better future in France, but end up committing such crimes.
“It is a shame to do such things after going there looking for livelihood and freedom,” he deplored.
Benkirane’s statement concerned both the beheading of French teacher Samuel Paty on October 16 and the Nice attack on October 29. In the first incident, the attacker was a Chechen refugee. Meanwhile, the main suspect arrested after the attack in Nice is a Tunisian national.
While Benkirane condemned the extremist acts, he also denounced French President Emmanuel Macron’s statements regarding the caricatures of Prophet Muhammad and supported Muslims’ right to boycott French products.
On October 21, Macron declared that France “will not renounce caricatures,” including those that offend Muslims. The French government also allowed the display of cartoons of the prophet on some of its buildings.
Macron “made a mistake in his approach,” Benkirane stated, “but even if he did order the publication of caricatures insulting Prophet Muhammad, there should be no attacks against French citizens.”
The former leader of the ruling Justice and Development Party also expressed his sadness over the growing anti-Islamic rhetoric in France.
“I am closely following what is going on in France because of its close relationship with us, and I have been sad just like you are since the republic’s president began his campaign against Islam by saying it is in crisis,” Benkirane said.
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“Freedom of speech has nothing to do with attacking people’s beliefs,” he added, criticizing France’s insistence to continue publishing offensive caricatures in the name of freedom of speech.
At the end of his address, Benkirane urged Muslims, especially those living in France, to remain civil in their response to anti-Islamic taunts.
“I am calling on Muslims to never attack French citizens under the argument of defending Prophet Muhammad. The best way to defend him is to follow his teachings and instructions,” he said.
“It is absolutely forbidden to assault any person, even if they insult the prophet,” he stressed.