Last week there were mass rallies in the streets of several French cities after the beheading of a teacher by an Islamic extremist. In response to the grisly murder on Oct. 16, people wanted to stand up in support of French values including secularism and free expression, the same values teacher Samuel Paty was killed over. But the French response led by President Macron has created a backlash in some Muslim countries who are launching boycotts of French products:
Macron says extremists are impeding that integration, and his government has begun carrying out raids, deportations, and ordering the dissolution of certain Islamic groups. One of them aimed to fight Islamophobia in France and another was a humanitarian organization that does work in Africa and South Asia. Authorities also didn’t stop images of the cartoons from being projected onto French government buildings during the national remembrance.
France’s interior minister, Gérard Darmanin, told local paper Libération on Monday that such measures were aimed at “sending a message,” adding, “We are seeking to fight an ideology, not a religion.”…
On Tuesday, 40,000 people rallied in Bangladesh’s capital, Dhaka, against Macron’s efforts, and even burned him in effigy. That followed less aggressive acts in other countries, with Turkey, Tunisia, Kuwait, Jordan, Morocco, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and more calling to boycott French products and grocery stores.
The piece goes on to suggest the threatened boycotts will likely fade away on their own. President Macron’s actions may upset people in Muslim countries but he seems to be tapping into some renewed fear at home:
A survey this week by the Ifop polling firm found an overwhelming majority of respondents considered France’s secular values were in danger, and that radical Islam was at war with the country.
“Laïcité is not against religion but allows everyone to live his religion or be atheist,” said Elisabeth Gandin, who joined thousands at Paris’ Place de la Republique to protest the attack against Paty. “I don’t agree with the Charlie cartoons, but I’m on the streets to defend the right to say things some may not like.”
Bolstering those views may be another recent Ifop survey suggesting that 40% of Muslims, including more than three-quarters of those under 25, put their religious convictions ahead of the country. Those figures were far higher than for non-Muslims, although skeptics have questioned how the survey’s questions were framed.
Writing in Politico Europe, John Lichfield points out that France has a experienced terrorism up close and personal in recent years. A trial connected to the attack on Charlie Hebdo is currently taking place. Lichfield argues that the reaction to France’s current actions from some on the left has been “dishonest and dangerous.”
There have been 36 serious or very serious Islamist terror attacks in France in the eight years since Mohamed Merah murdered three children outside a Jewish school in Toulouse and killed five other people in March 2012.
It will soon be five years since a series of coordinated suicide attacks on the Bataclan music venue and nearby bars in Paris slaughtered 130 Friday evening revelers. The following year 86 people died when a 19-tonne truck was driven into crowds in Nice celebrating France’s national day.
To imply that France is more culprit than victim — as Erdoğan and some Western critics do — is dishonest and dangerous. France has suffered more from Islamist terrorism than any other European country in the last decade. The great majority of the attacks have had no direct connection with Charlie Hebdo magazine’s publication of cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad.
To be sure, there has been something scattergun about the Macron government’s security reaction since the Paty murder but nothing draconian.
Macron should continue to tune out his critics in the Muslim world and at the NY Times and elsewhere. The French people are justifiably scared about what has been happening the past several years and cracking down on groups with connections to violent extremists is reasonable under the circumstances. The French are still fighting for the ideals of free expression that, unfortunately, some on the American left are eager to abandon.
Update: Some video of the protests in Bangladesh.
🔴 INFO – #Bangladesh : Ce mardi, 40.000 manifestants, selon les chiffres de la police ont manifesté à #Dacca brûlant notamment une effigie d'Emmanuel #Macron auquel ils reprochent d'avoir défendu le droit à caricaturer #Mahomet. #Islam #terrorisme #TerrorismeIslamiste #Islamisme pic.twitter.com/xQFCEOTJfF
— FranceNews24 (@FranceNews24) October 27, 2020