French President, Emmanuel Macron earlier this month decried ‘Islamic separatism.’ He pledged to ‘defend right to blaspheme.’
Macron also described the religion of Islam as ‘in crisis.’ He said that a bill in December will be passed to strengthen the separation of church and state will be presented by the French government.
His comments earned him much backlash from Muslim communities within and outside of France. Particularly in Turkey, and various Arab countries French products were widely boycotted, hashtags such as the #BoycottFrenchProducts in English and the Arabic #ExceptGodsMessenger trended across countries including Kuwait, Qatar, Palestine, Egypt, Algeria, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey, reported ‘Al-Jazeera.’
Can Pakistan afford a product ban on France?
Pakistan’s imports from France amounted to US$420.09 Million during 2019, according to the United Nations COMTRADE database on international trade. From a breakdown of the imports, it is apparent that some of these items are essential for the economic prosperity of Pakistan. Amounting to $110.2 million pharmaceutical products, including vaccines are the number one thing imported from France, followed by Machinery, nuclear reactors, boilers.
France has also invested in the Pharmaceutical sector of Pakistan. According to N.A. Memon’s study in 2008, France had become an important trading partner of Pakistan with the total trade volume of $ 756 million between the two countries during 2006-2007.
France imported $442 million worth of Pakistani goods in 2019. Although France has not reciprocated any product bans its products have suffered abroad, if it did, it would have a serious effect on Pakistani exports.
The Pakistani exports to France include textile products including readymade garments, bed wear, and knitwear. A number of other products such as sports goods, surgical instruments, and leather gloves are also exported to France.
The Pakistani government in 2007 rationalized its import policy to allow liberal imports of machinery, pharmaceutical products, telecommunication appliances, and chemicals, according to the same study.
The French multinationals establishing their subsidiaries in Pakistan include chemical and pharmaceutical companies including Rhone-Poulenc and Roussel-Uclaf, and agribusiness giant Danone. Other companies that are active in Pakistan are Credit Agricole Indosuez, Lyonnais, and Societe Generale.
French trade plays a key role in various essential sectors of Pakistan.
Prime Minister Imran Khan’s Reaction to the French President’s speech
Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan joined Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Sunday in criticizing French President Emmanuel Macron for his recent comments on Islam.
“This is a time when President Macron could have put a healing touch and denied space to extremists rather than creating further polarization and marginalization that inevitably leads to radicalization,” Khan wrote on Twitter.
“Sadly, President Macron has chosen to deliberately provoke Muslims, including his own citizens, and encouraged the display of blasphemous cartoons targeting Islam and the Holy Prophet [Muhammad],” he added.
Read more: Turkey and France: tensions escalate
Macron didn’t directly respond to Khan, but issued a tweet later in the day saying that the French government respects all differences in “a spirit of peace.”
“We do not accept hate speech and defend reasonable debate. We will always be on the side of human dignity and universal values,” said Macron.
“What problem does this person called Macron have with Muslims and Islam? Macron needs treatment on a mental level,” Erdogan said in a speech at a provincial congress of his Justice and Development (AK) Party in the central Turkish city of Kayseri.
Paris condemned Erdogan’s remarks as “unacceptable,” adding that it was recalling its envoy to Ankara to discuss the matter.
Khan seeks ban on “Islamophobic” content
On Sunday, Khan also sought a ban on Islamophobic content on Facebook, similar to the ban Facebook has for content on the Holocaust.
My letter to CEO Facebook Mark Zuckerberg to ban Islamophobia just as Facebook has banned questioning or criticising the holocaust. pic.twitter.com/mCMnz9kxcj— Imran Khan (@ImranKhanPTI) October 25, 2020
In a letter to the company’s CEO Mark Zuckerberg, the Pakistani premier said that growing Islamophobia was “encouraging hate, extremism, and violence across the world, and especially through the use of social media platforms, including Facebook.”
In the letter, Khan called out “anti-Muslim laws” in India and France’s decision to allow the “publication of blasphemous cartoons targeting Islam and our Holy Prophet.”
GVS News Desk