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France urges Arab nations to stop boycotts over Macron’s defence of prophet cartoons

France has called on Arab nations to end “baseless” calls for a boycott of its goods – after French President Emmanuel Macron’s defence of the right to show cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad.

The French foreign ministry also urged authorities in the countries to speak out against such protests in order to help French companies and ensure the safety of its citizens.

French products have been covered or removed from some shops in Kuwait, Qatar and Jordan, while in Saudi Arabia, the Arab world’s largest economy, a hashtag calling for the boycott of French supermarket retailer Carrefour has been trending on social media.

Meanwhile, there have also been protests in various countries, including Bangladesh, Libya, Syria and Iraq.

A man wearing a protective face mask walks outside a Carrefour hypermarket while Egypt ramps up its efforts to slow the spread the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Cairo, Egypt March 19, 2020. REUTERS/Amr Abdallah Dalsh
Image: A trending hashtag on social media has called for the boycott of Carrefour, a popular French retailer in the Middle East

France’s foreign ministry said: “These calls for boycotts are baseless and should stop immediately, as well as all attacks against our country, which are being pushed by a radical minority.”

The boycotts follow comments made by Mr Macron after the murder of a French teacher earlier this month.

Samuel Paty had shown caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad during a class on freedom of expression at his secondary school in Conflans-Sainte-Honorine, northwest of Paris. His killing is being investigated as an Islamist terror attack.

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French products were covered on the shelves of a shop in Jordan
Image: French products were covered on the shelves of a shop in Jordan

Mr Macron said France would not renounce its freedoms, and said Mr Paty “was killed because Islamists want our future” and described the history teacher as a “hero”.

Muslims see any depiction of the prophet as blasphemous, but Mr Macron has defended the teacher’s actions as freedom of expression.

Earlier this month, he described Islam as a religion “in crisis” worldwide and pledged a crackdown on extremism.

Mr Macron tweeted on Sunday: “We will not give in, ever.”

He did not directly address the boycott calls.

The president of Turkey has called on Turkish people to join in with the boycotting of French goods.

In a televised speech, Recep Tayyip Erdogan said: “I am calling to all my citizens from here to never help French brands or buy them.”

He added that Muslims are “subjected to a lynch campaign similar to that against Jews in Europe before World War Two” and that “European leaders should tell the French president to stop his hate campaign”.

During the speech, he also urged world leaders to protect Muslims “if there is oppression against Muslims in France”.

Mr Erdogan has made similar calls for boycotting products in the past, including an appeal not to buy US electronics in 2018 which wasn’t followed through.

Mask-wearing protesters are seen at a demonstration in Istanbul on Sunday
Image: Mask-wearing protesters are seen at a demonstration in Istanbul on Sunday

A boy  in Istanbul holds a poster a footprint on the French president's face
Image: A boy in Istanbul holds a poster showing a footprint on the French president’s face

France had already recalled its ambassador to Turkey on Saturday after Mr Erdogan said Mr Macron needed “mental health treatment” over his attitude towards Muslims.

French authorities have also denounced Turkish “propaganda” against France which they have said is aimed at fanning hate at home and abroad.

Alongside a bloc of Muslim nations, Pakistan has also criticised Mr Macron’s stance, with Prime Minister Imran Khan stating that he had “attacked Islam”.

The country’s French ambassador in Islamabad has been summoned to be given a diplomatic protest against the “irresponsible remarks” made by Mr Macron.

Mr Khan tweeted: “This is a time when President Macron could have put healing touch and denied space to extremists rather than creating further polarisation and marginalisation that inevitably leads to radicalisation.”

The 57-nation Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, headquartered in Saudi Arabia, has condemned the “ongoing practice of running satirical caricatures depicting the Prophet Muhammad” and said it “will continue to decry justification for blasphemy of any religion in the name of freedom of expression”.

The beheading of Mr Paty carried echoes of the Islamist attack on the offices of the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo in 2015.

The publication had shown images of the Prophet Muhammad.

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