In a visible attempt to tackle outrage, French President Emmanuel Macron says he understands the feelings of Muslims who are shocked by cartoons drawn of the Prophet Muhammad but he added that the “radical Islam” he is trying to fight is a threat to all people, especially Muslims.
In an exclusive interview, Macron’s comments were made with Al Jazeera that aired in full on Saturday. It came amid heightened tensions between the French government and the Muslim world over the cartoons, which the latter considers to be blasphemous.
“I think that the reactions came as a result of lies and distortions of my words because people understood that I supported these cartoons,” the president said in the interview.
“The caricatures are not a governmental project, but emerged from free and independent newspapers that are not affiliated with the government,” Macron added.
The French president was referring to the recent republishing of the caricatures by the Charlie Hebdo magazine to mark the opening of the trial for a deadly attack against its staff in 2015, wherein the Paris-based publication’s cartoons were cited as a reason for the assault.
He had defended the “right to blaspheme” under free speech rights at the time of the republication in September. However, he received backlash from Muslim activists on October 2, when he claimed in a speech that Islam was “in a crisis globally”.
He had also announced his plan “to reform Islam” in order to make it more compatible with his country’s republican values.
He reiterated his stance about the cartoons after a French teacher, who showed the caricatures to his pupils in class during a discussion on free speech, was beheaded by an attacker on October 16. Last week, the depictions were projected on French government buildings as well.
Source: Al Jazeera