Rabat – France has great respect for Islam, its values, and Prophet Muhammad, the chairman of the France-Morocco interparliamentary group Christian Cambon said Monday.
Cambon issued the declaration after meeting separately with Abdessamad Kayouh, his Moroccan counterpart in the interparliamentary friendship group, and Habib El Malki, the president of Morocco’s House of Representatives.
Cambon, who is also the chairman of the Select Committee on Foreign Affairs in the French Senate, emphasized to Morocco’s state media “[France’s] great respect for Islam … and for those who have always shown a sense of tolerance and who develop the values of humanism and humanity.”
Acknowledging recent tension between France and the global Muslim community after French President Emmanuel Macron’s controversial response to acts of extremism in his country, Cambon said that “some official statements may have been misinterpreted.”
After September’s stabbing near the former Charlie Hebdo offices and the attacks in Paris and Nice that followed in October, Macron made several remarks condemning “Islamist separatism” and “Islamist terrorism” in France.
Over the course of a few weeks, the French president said on separate occasions that Islam is a “religion in crisis worldwide” and “Islamists want our future,” and stressed that France will not give up Charlie Hebdo’s caricatures of Prophet Muhammad that Muslims consider offensive. France also launched a crackdown on individuals and associations it considers “extremist.”
France was not worried that Morocco would participate in the Muslim world’s boycott campaign against French products that emerged in response to Macron’s remarks. However, the European country is still keen to assure the strength of relations with its former colony.
Cambon traveled to Rabat as part of a French delegation accompanying the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Europe, Jean-Yves Le Drian, on his two-day working visit to Morocco.
He said the goal of his meetings with Kayouh and El Malki was to “reassure France’s respect for the Muslim religion” and “dispel any misunderstanding” that may have arisen alongside tensions in France.
The deputy to the French national assembly, M’jid El Guerrab, and the French Ambassador in Rabat, Helene Le Gal, also attended Cambon’s meetings with Kayouh and El Malki.
The importance of friendship groups
Friendship groups play an important role in maintaining the close relationship between Morocco and France, Cambon said. The two countries cooperate in many fields, including military, trade, and security.
Parliamentary cooperation and diplomacy, in particular, promote the value of friendship between the two countries, Cambon continued.
Kayouh similarly emphasized the importance of respect for religions and beliefs, stressing the role of interparliamentary friendship groups in exchanging views.
Such groups are also essential in promoting economic, social, and diplomatic relations between France and Morocco, he added. Kayouh noted, in particular, the two countries’ fruitful cooperation in the fight against terrorism.
The meetings between Cambon, Kayouh, and El Malki were in line with Le Drian’s goal to strengthen Rabat-Paris cooperation.
Le Drian also spoke on Monday with Morocco’s Minister of Islamic Affairs Ahmed Toufiq about France’s recent issues with extremist violence and Macron’s law to end “Islamist separatism,” which includes terminating a program that allows foreign imams to enter France. Morocco is one of the countries that participate in the program.
As well, a visit to the Mohammed VI Institute, which is renowned for training imams from the Sahel as part of Morocco’s initiative to combat religious extremism, was on Le Drian’s agenda.
After meeting with Bourita, Le Drian stated: “In difficult times, it is normal to turn to your close friends.”
He added that Morocco, as “the bearer of an Islam of a happy-medium promoted by King Mohammed VI” and a country that shares France’s “rejection of terrorism,” is an important ally of the European country as it grapples with uncertainty.