French President Emmanuel Macron considered the campaign to boycott French products in some Muslim countries, where demonstrations also took place against the publication of caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad in France, as “inappropriate” and “unacceptable.”
In an interview with Al-Jazeera on Saturday, he said that this campaign is “inappropriate and I condemn it. But some private groups launched it because they did not understand and because they were based on lies, on cartoons, and sometimes officials launched them. This is unacceptable.”
The French president denounced his long “distortion” of the Prophet Muhammad’s caricatures and said that “political and religious officials” had suggested that these cartoons “were directed by the French government” against Islam.
Macron said, “A lot of lies cause the Islamic world’s reactions, and that people believed that I supported these cartoons (…) I support freedom of writing, though, and drawing in my country because I think that this matter is important, and it is right; it is our freedoms.”
The French President accused his Turkish counterpart, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, of adopting an “aggressive approach towards his partners in NATO,” expressing his hope of “calming things down” and that the Turkish president would not release “lies.”
Macron hoped that “the Turkish president will respect France and the European Union, and their principles, and not let lies and insults,” in the midst of tensions hanging over the diplomatic relations between the two countries.
In the interview, Macron confirmed that he understood that Muslims might be “shocked” by the Prophet Muhammad cartoons’ publication, but that the cartoons did not justify the violence.
According to excerpts from the interview, the head of state declared, “I understand that we may be shocked by cartoons, but I will never agree to the justification of violence.”
This is the first interview conducted by the French President since the start of the anti-French protests, which erupted against the background of his statements in which he defended the publication of cartoons in the name of freedom of expression after the killing of a teacher near Paris who showed his students caricatures of the Prophet.
Sources in the vicinity of Macron said that the French president seeks, in this “long” interview, to “clarify his vision calmly,” with his desire to show that “his statements about the fight against isolationism have been distorted and (his statements) about cartoons are shown in a caricature way most of the time.”.
The source explained that the issue is related to “confronting lies, instead of allowing them to spread and the desire to explain the foundations of the French republican model.”
On October 22, during the national memorial held for Samuel Patti, Macron said, “We will defend freedom … We will promote secularism and will not abandon caricatures and drawings, even if some backdown.”
This statement sparked a wave of criticism in several Muslim-majority countries, and calls were made to boycott French goods and demonstrate.
Tens of thousands of people demonstrated again in Bangladesh and Pakistan, and to a lesser extent in the Middle East, Morocco, and Mali on Friday.
French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian called on French citizens living abroad to exercise caution, noting that there is a threat to French interests “everywhere.”