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Thursday, May 23, 2024

Iran’s Imam Khamenei blasts France for blasphemy

Imam Khamenei joined other Muslim leaders in blasting French President. But Macron is steadfast in defending France's secular values. Around 6 million or 8% of French population is Muslim which makes French elite's position all the more controversial.

Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on Wednesday called the French president’s defence of cartoons depicting the Prophet Mohammed (PBUH) a “stupid act” and an “insult” to those who voted for him.

“Ask your president why he supports insulting God’s messenger in the name of freedom of expression. Does freedom of expression mean insulting, especially a sacred personage?” Khamenei said in a message to “French youth” on his official website. “Isn’t this stupid act an insult to the reason of the people who elected him?” he added.

French President Emmanuel Macron has strongly defended secular values and the right to mock religion following the murder of a French schoolteacher who had shown his class cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed (PBUH).

Read more: Huge rallies in Pakistan, Iran against France anti-Islam wave

Macron’s comments triggered protests and a call to boycott French goods in some Muslim-majority countries.

“The next question to ask is, ‘why is it a crime to raise doubts about the holocaust?'” Khamenei said. “Why should anyone who writes about such doubts be imprisoned, while insulting the Prophet, peace be upon him, is allowed?”

Khamenei’s remarks follow a chorus of criticism directed at Macron by top Iranian officials, including President Hassan Rouhani, who warned on Wednesday that insulting the prophet is “immoral” and may encourage “violence and bloodshed”.

Rouhani said “the West should understand that… insulting the Prophet is insulting all Muslims, all prophets, all human values, and trampling ethics.” “Every single European is in debt to the prophet, as he was the teacher of humanity,” he added.

Shame on you, Macron: Imam Khamenei

Hundreds of protesters demonstrated near France’s embassy in Tehran on Wednesday to condemn Macron’s remarks. Some protesters held banners reading, “shame on you Macron”, while others burned pictures of the French leader.

Demonstrator Zeynab Yeganeh told AFP that Macron has shown his “wretchedness” by defending the cartoons, and said Europeans are being “oppressed” as the truth of Islam is being hidden from them by their leaders.

Read more: Protests against France spread as Erdogan condemns Macron’s attack on Islam

Mohammad Taherzadeh, a government employee who also joined the rally, said: “We are here to tell Macron that we respect all religions and that he has no right to insult our Prophet.”

On Tuesday, a senior French diplomat in Iran was summoned to protest the “unacceptable behaviour of the French authorities”. The parliamentary bloc of the powerful Lebanese group Hezbollah, which is close to Iran, on Wednesday also issued a statement against insults targeting the Prophet Mohammed.

It slammed the “moral and ethical bankruptcy that groups, states and leaders are suffering from today”, adding that intentionally ridiculing the prophet revealed “malicious and hostile intentions”.

Read more: Respect Muhammad (PBUH) like we respect Moses, Jesus: Lord Nazir

The statement did not mention France or Macron, but accused the states and groups in question of “abusing freedom of expression… by suppressing others and preventing them from expressing their convictions and beliefs”.

Iranian students protest in front of French embassy

Large numbers of university students gathered in front of France’s embassy in the Iranian capital Wednesday to protest against recent blasphemous remarks by French officials against Islam.

They carried placards and banners with strong messages and chanted slogans against French President Emmanuel Macron.

The peaceful demonstration continued for a few hours, during which the protestors demanded an unconditional apology from Macron and other French officials.

They also called for the expulsion of the French ambassador in Tehran and a boycott of French products as a mark of protest against the complete disregard for the religious sentiments of Muslims.

“They keep doing it and we keep ignoring it. But now is the time to take a stand and teach them a good lesson,” Reza Alaavi, a student at Tehran University and one of the organizers, told Anadolu Agency.

He said all Muslims across the world are united on this, and it is a “good opportunity” to “fight the Islamophobia and hatred against Muslims.”

The protestors also changed the name of the street in front of the French embassy from Neauphle-le-Chateau Street to Mohammad Rasolallah Street.

The street had been named after a small village in northern France where Iran’s founder, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, spent a year in exile in 1978 after being deported from Iraq.

Alaavi said a formal application would soon be submitted at Tehran Municipality to change the street’s name to Mohammad Rasolallah Street.

Outrage has been growing in Iran over Macron’s Islamophobic remarks, with people demanding the expulsion of the French envoy and a boycott of French products.

On Tuesday, the French charge d’affaires in Tehran was summoned by the Foreign Ministry to lodge a formal protest against the “unacceptable actions” of French authorities.

Many senior Iranian officials including President Hassan Rouhani, Foreign Minister Javad Zarif, Chief Justice Ebrahim Raisi, Parliament speaker Baqer Qalibaf, National Security Council head Ali Shamkhani and the Supreme Leader’s top advisor Ali Akbar Velayati have issued statements denouncing French officials for fueling Islamophobia.

AFP with additional input by GVS News Desk