Emmanuel Macron is attempting to defuse tension after hitting the Muslim world with a series of perceptibly anti-Islam statements.
In a last-ditch attempt to make France’s agressive, and mostly anti-Islam, “secularist” guidelines more palatable to the Muslim world, Emmanuel Macron has said France is seeking to fight “Islamist separaism,” not Islam.
“Who could imagine that the statements made publicly by the head of a G7 member state could be distorted by this news organisation?” Macron asked in a letter written with characteristic bombast.
Macron’s letter, headlined “France is against ‘Islamist separatsim’—never Islam” and addresed to the Financial Times, sought to deny what the French leader described as a deliberate misquotaion and mischraterization of his position on France’s ongoing, fierce identity crisis.
The Financial Times published Macron’s letter on November 4, with the French president making it clear that he was writing to rebut a column the English newspaper had published on November 3.
“It accused me of stigmatising French Muslims for electoral purposes and of fostering a climate of fear and suspicion towards them,” Macron said of the Financial Times column.
In his response, Macron said that he refuses to discuss the “questionable rigour of this article” but seeks to remind Financial Times readers of “simple facts and to explain the situation of my country and the challenges it has to face.”.
For the French president, his country has been enaged in an existential struggle against “Islamist”terrorists since the 2015 attacs on Charlie Hebdo.
France’s determination to defend “freedom of expression” is one of the reasons terrorists attack France, Macron argued.
“France has been attacked by Islamist terrorists because it embodies freedom of expression, the right to believe or not to believe and a certain way of life.”
Defending his nation’s “resilience and determination” in the face of recent attacks, the French President said that French people “will not surrender any of France’s values, its identity, or its imagination.”
Read also: Emmanuel Macron: Islam ‘In Crisis Worldwide’
Emmanuel Macron also accused a number of French Muslim organizatons of having links to radical Islam. With these groups, he suggested, France runs the risk of becoming a breeding ground for terrorist recruitment.
“In certain districts and on the internet, groups linked to radical Islam are teaching hatred of the republic to our children, calling on them to disregard its laws. That is what I called ‘separatism’ in one of my speeches.”
He also called on readers to check social media postings, saying that some people routinely preach hatered in the name of “a distorted Islam that resulted in [Samuel] Paty’s death.”
An 18-year-old refugee of Chechen descent beheaded Paty, a history-geography teacher — the two subjects are taught together in the French education system — on October 16.
The teacher was killed after he displayed caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad in a class on freedom of expression.
Muslims and non-Muslims decried the gruesome murder of Paty, as well as the string of attacks that followed days later. But Macron ignited controversy after he defended the caricatures, presenting them as a crucial symbol of “French values.”
Macron’s description of the cartoons as an integral part of France’s uncompromisingly “free society” followed controversial remarks. In early October, the French president problematically said that “Islam is a religion in crisis across the world.”
In response, Muslims and Arabs launched a campaign calling for a boycott of French products.
The campaign has gone viral in recent weeks. Millions in the Middle-East and other Muslim-majority countries around the world have vented their frustration with Macron and shared their determination to follow the French boycott.
Macron initially described the boycott as “unworthy” and “unacceptable.” As messages of boycott and anti-French sentiments gained ground, however, he backed down on some of his earlier statements.
“I understand the sentiments being expressed and I respect them. But you must understand my role right now,” he said in a recent interview with Al Jazeera.