By Zahra Mirzafarjouyan

Macron's remarks endanger peace in France: German expert

October 30, 2020 - 15:54

TEHRAN – Stating that Macron’s domestic political plans have failed, Dr. Markus Fiedler believes that the French President's irresponsible suspicious remarks endangers the country's peace.

A tension between France and Muslim nations is growing after French President Emmanuel Macron said that Islam was in “crisis”. 

Tension has simmered since September when the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo republished cartoons of the prophet Muhammad on the eve of a trial of 14 people accused of involvement in an attack against the publication’s offices in 2015 for publishing the same caricatures.

Tension escalated after French teacher Samuel Paty was killed on October 16 near his school who had shown caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad to his students. Since the crime, French officials were perceived as linking the killing to Islam.

Several French cities responded by projecting caricatures of the Islamic prophet on the walls of buildings as a gesture of defiance and defense of secularism, and Macron told a vigil in Paris that his country “would not give up cartoons”.

The comments have raised controversy and provoked a wave of criticism from the Muslim world against the French leader and some protests took place in several countries against French president.

Huge anti-France rally in Bangladesh as Macron backlash widens

To shed light on the issue, we reached out to Dr. Markus Fiedler, a German sociologist, Islamic scholar, and lecturer at al-Mustafa Institute in Berlin.

What do you think about the recent anti-Islamic remarks of French President Emmanuel Macron?

I am very astonished that Emmanuel Macron, as president of a country, behaves so insensitively and promotes a general suspicion against Islam. After all, it is also about inner peace in “his” country. The inhabitants of the French overseas department of Mayotte are 95% Muslims. Overall, according to French citizenship and anti-discrimination laws, official surveys on ethnic and religious affiliation are not permitted, which is why one can only estimate the number of Muslims living in France, today about 7-9 million Muslims live in France.

It should also be remembered that northern Algeria was still seen in France as part of the French motherland in the early 1960s. If General de Gaulle hadn't opted for Algeria's independence, the majority of the french population today would be Muslims. As a President of the country, Macron is responsible for ensuring that no one in “his” country sees himself or herself under general suspicion and that no one becomes a second class citizen because of his or her religion.

In your opinion, what are his goals by making these statements? And why does he generalize the action of one person to the whole Islamic world?

Macron is faced with the Front National (new name: Rassemblement National) under the leadership of Marine Le Pen, a strong right-wing opposition party. Macron therefore wants to show that he does not make any concessions to the Muslims and is ready to face them hard. He cannot afford to back down on this matter because he is then considered a wimp. Macron’s domestic political plans have failed and ended in mass protests. He has also no success in foreign policy. In terms of foreign policy, he has recently taken a different approach, especially in relation to Russia. Now he has the opportunity to present himself to the French as an intrepid “defender of freedom”.

Demonstrators against Islamophobia and anti-Muslim discrimination gathered in Paris on November 10, 2019

Given that many Muslims live in France, won't his remarks spread hatred in French society and polarize it?

That was predictable from the start. One can raise the question of what actually drove those responsible at Charlie Hebdo to reissue the “Muhammad cartoons” in a special issue after past experiences have shown where this is leading. Macron immediately spoke up, saying that it was in defense of freedom of expression, which includes the right to blasphemy. The suspicion remains that these insults against religious sentiments are intended to drive Muslims into thoughtless reactions.

In your opinion, is insulting the divine religions compatible with the principle of freedom of expression?

It is well known that one person's freedom ends where that of another begins. If you insult another person on the street with swear words, for example, you will hardly be able to invoke the unrestricted freedom of expression in court. How can it be in a sane community that the religious sentiments of a group of people living in that state can be hurt? That endangers the internal peace of a country.

Therefore, in a functioning state, there are laws that ensure inner peace between people and different world views in a society. For this reason, e.g. the Russian media regulator also threatened newspapers that want to publish the cartoons with criminal penalties. In the West it is said again and again that satire is allowed to do anything. It is about freedom of the press and freedom of expression, one of the supposedly highest goods in the West. However, freedom of the press and freedom of expression quickly come to an end in the West when it comes to the really powerful.

Caricature of Israel regime's Prime Minister Netanyahu in German daily 'Süddeutsche Zeitung'

Here are two examples: In March 2018, the Süddeutsche Zeitung (SZ) fired its illustrator Dieter Hanitzsch after 35 years of collaboration. The reason: Hanitzsch had drawn a caricature of Israel regime's Prime Minister Netanyahu at the Eurovision Song Contest and published it in the SZ. Another example: In 2015, in the dispute over the cartoons, the most important German newspapers began to reprint the cartoons, again allegedly to defend Western freedom of the press. The Berliner Zeitung (BZ) published these caricatures on January 8, 2015 under the title “Attack on Freedom”.

However, those responsible made a mistake: a caricature with alleged "anti-Semitic content" accidentally made it onto the front page. Despite all the talk of "satire is allowed to do anything", the BZ promptly apologized: “On January 8, 2015, the Berliner Zeitung accidentally published an anti-Semitic cartoon by Joe Lecorbeau. We would like to apologize again for this. It is an extremely unfortunate mistake that we made on the day of the terrorist attacks in Paris.” Those affected are apologized for allegedly anti-Semitic content. On the other hand, Muslims who do not have a lobby in the West can be mocked and insulted.

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