Emmanuel Macron said he is sorry that the cartoons were shocking for Muslims, but said they were not a message from France but from a journalist exercising freedom of speech.
Rabat – French President Emmanuel Macron returned to the controversy on cartoons of Prophet Muhammad, which are deeply offensive to Islam, during a press conference with Egyptian President Abdel Fettah Al Sisi on Monday.
In response to a question from an Egyptian journalist, Macron acknowledged that the cartoons were shocking for Muslims and said he regrets that.
The president, however, underlined that France endorses freedom of speech. “There is no president or body that tells [a journalist] what he writes or draws.”
Macron argued that the caricatures are not a message from France to Muslims, but they were the work of a person.
“We must realize that this law is the law chosen by the French people… this is the law of the French people… These cartoons and articles that shocked you are not issued by the French authorities or the French president.”
The French president, however, said that the world should respond to such cartoons peacefully.
“When violence is legitimized against whoever draws the cartoons, we disagree…We will not accept violence against a word or drawing… it is absolutely unacceptable to legitimize violence against whoever draws or writes,” Macron said.
The controversy regarding the cartoons followed the decision of Charlie Hebdo to publish offensive caricatures of Prophet Muhammad in September.
The tension escalated when Macron defended the cartoons after criticism from Muslims across the world.
On October 16, an 18-year-old man killed French teacher Samuel Paty, who displayed the Prophet Muhammad cartoons during a class on freedom of speech.
The murder sparked outrage in France, shocking Muslims and non-Muslims who condemned the gruesome act.
Other violent attacks followed, including the October 29 stabbing in Nice, southern France, during which one woman was beheaded and two others were killed.
A 21-year-old migrant from Tunisia perpetrated the attacks, injuring several others near the Basilica of Notre-Dame in Nice.
The attacks prompted fear among Muslims and Arabs, with an increase in discrimination after controversial remarks from Macron.
Before the attacks, Macron said Islam is a “religion in crisis across” the world after a man carried out a stabbing attack near the former Charlie Hebdo offices in response to the satirical magazine republishing its cartoons of the prophet in September.
After the murder of Samuel Paty on October 16, Macron said “Islamists want” France’s future.
He said that France will not give up its cartoons, defending them citing freedom of speech.
In response, Arabs and Muslims around the world launched a campaign to boycott French products.