The French president defends freedom of speech in the dispute over the Mohammed cartoons – and arouses outrage. Arab countries are calling for boycotts. There are also sharp attacks on Macron from Turkey.

Hundreds of people took to the streets on weekends in various Muslim countries. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has even asked Macron to have his “state of mind” checked. Macron recently stated that Islam was in “crisis” and found clear words against extremism after the Islamist attack on a teacher.

Educator Samuel Paty was beheaded a week ago on Friday by an 18-year-old hitman of Chechen descent for showing his students caricatures of the Prophet Mohammed to illustrate the subject of freedom of speech.

At a national memorial service for Paty on Wednesday, Macron said, “We will not give up caricatures and drawings.” Following the attack, French police carried out dozens of operations against people and associations allegedly belonging to or close to the Islamic spectrum.

Outrage in Pakistan, Libya and Syria

Macron’s comments about Islamists and the caricatures provoked outrage in parts of the Islamic world. Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan on Sunday accused Macron of “attacking Islam”. On Saturday and Sunday, small protests took place in Libya, and portraits of Macron were burned in Syria and the Gaza Strip.

In front of the residence of the French ambassador to Israel, about 200 people demonstrated against Macron on Saturday evening. In some countries, protesters joined calls from their governments to boycott French products.

On Sunday, the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs called on the governments of the countries to ‘stop’ calls for boycotts. They must also demonstrate that the calls are from a “radical minority”.

Macron tweets in Arabic

In addition, Macron posted several messages on Twitter on Sunday evening, which were also published in English and Arabic. “Freedom, we appreciate it; equality, we guarantee it; brotherhood, we live it with intensity. Nothing will ever force us to withdraw,” wrote the head of state. In another tweet, he added, “We will move on. We will always be on the side of human dignity and universal values.”

Paris had previously recalled the French ambassador to Turkey for consultations after the Turkish head of state questioned Macron’s state of mind in a speech. This should send a “very strong signal” to Ankara, Macron said. “President Erdogan’s statements are unacceptable,” the French Presidency told AFP news agency. “Excessiveness and rudeness are not a method.”

The EU also responded to Erdogan’s statements on Sunday. The statements were “unacceptable”, Josep Borrell, EU foreign policy representative, wrote on the online Twitter service. Turkey must “end this dangerous confrontation spiral”.

Relationship between Turkey and France at rock bottom

Regardless of this, Erdogan added again on Sunday. Macron is “a matter and therefore really needs to be investigated,” Erdogan said in a speech in eastern Turkey. He also accused Macron of aiming it at him. The French head of state is “obsessed with Erdogan day and night”.

Relations between France and Turkey have recently been heavily burdened by various issues. Macron accused the Turkish government of, among other things, massive interference in the conflict between Azerbaijan and Armenia over the southern Caucasus region of Nagorno-Karabakh. Macron has also sharply warned Erdogan in the conflict over gas supplies in the Eastern Mediterranean.

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