Explained: “Secular” France’s Existential Clash With Islamic States

The recent attack on France has created a controversy between the French stance on “Extremism” and its secular values with a large-scale boycott from Islamic Nations.

On 16th October, a French middle school teacher was attacked by a radical Muslim refugee student for showing a caricature of Prophet Mohamed in his class. Samuel Patty was practising his freedom of speech, according to French President Emmanuel Macron.

The extremist activities took place on Thursday morning when 3 people were killed by a man in Notre Dame Church in the Nice City of France. The attack has created emergency alter in France with Nice Mayor calling the activity as “Terrorism”.

The reaction from Islamic Nations came with protest, boycott and derogative comment towards France and its leaders. The hatred towards French secularism grew so much so that many Islamic nation leaders called France as a country not suitable for the Muslim minority.

Charlie Hebdo is a satirical French magazine which has been in the news for offensive religious, political and social cartoons. It has received three major attacks in 2011, 2015 and 2020 for publishing vicious religious satire. One of the features of satire is strong sarcasm. As per the literary critic Northrup Frye “in satire, the irony is militant,” when the world starts misinterpreting satire to insults, repercussions are felt.

France’s secularism allows for complete freedom of speech. To quote Macron “Right to speech includes right to blaspheme.” It differs from the Islamic Nation and India; in a sense, one has the right to say against religion because religion and state are separate with clear cut powers and functions in France.

It is because of Indian secularism, when one practice freedom of speech in India, he cannot hurt other religious sentiments. Whereas in France, as western secularism dictates distinction, a person can practice the same. One has to be a good citizen irrespective of their religion in France.

France is home to the largest number of Muslims in the Western world, primarily because of large scale migration from Maghrebi, West African, and Middle Eastern countries. According to the UNHCR, the EU countries with the biggest numbers of recognised refugees in 2014 was France. Islam is the second-most widely professed religion in France after Christianity.

When Macron said “Islam is in crisis all over the world”, he wanted to point out the segment which gives extremist rise and not a whole religion itself. Moreover, he talked about his inadequate government work done for the betterment of immigrants, and said “we have not sufficiently created diversity, or ensured economic and social mobility.”

As recent attacks increased, secular world leaders and Muslim intellectuals came in support of France. India, UK, Germany, Switzerland, Italy showed full support. USA is silent given the upcoming presidential elections.

Islamic Nations understands France’s freedom of expression as an insult to their religious beliefs. Certain nations like Saudi Arabia backed France and condemn the attack, but the Saudi citizens are boycotting French goods and its famous supermarket chain of Carrefour.

Many nations have called or boycotted and protest against France with the prohibition of French goods, calling back their envoys, making unacceptable comments against France and President Emmanuel Macron.

Turkey, Kuwait, and Qatar have started a widespread boycott of French goods in the market. Bangladesh and Libya have a largescale protest against the caricatures and Macron support on the same.

These repercussions will have an impact over French trade and commerce with the middle east and other Islamic nations, but the French government made it clear they will not give in and always stand for universal human values.

Turkey’s PM Erdogan stating Macron needs “Mental Health Care” or Pakistan blaming France for spreading Islamophobia instead of attacking the extreme activities shows the anti-sentiments towards the Western Europe country.

In a series of tweet, former Malaysian PM Mahathir Mohammed referred the past to justify the present attacks in France.

It is also to see that leaders who accuse Macron of Islamophobia also maintain silence over China’s ill-treatment towards the Uyghur minority. Nearly one million Muslim suffers in detention camp over alleged endless atrocities of organ harvesting and forces labour.

Indian Foreign Ministry and PM Narendra Modi showed full support to France in the fight against extremism and for the common good.

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