The head of a UN anti-extremism body expressed “deep concern” Wednesday about growing tensions over satirical cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed, urging “mutual respect” between people of different faiths and political views.
The statement by Miguel Angel Moratinos, who heads the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations, follows growing anger in the Muslim world over France’s response to the beheading of a teacher who had shown his pupils the images as part of a class on free speech.
President Emmanuel Macron has vigorously defended the publication of cartoons depicting the Prophet Mohammed on free speech grounds, sparking angry protests across swathes of the Muslim world and campaigns to boycott French products.
Read more: Protests against France spread as Erdogan condemns Macron’s attack on Islam
UN official expresses 'deep concern' over Mohammed cartoon tensions https://t.co/nM6TAayJzJ pic.twitter.com/aQzJhzjiTQ
— CNA (@ChannelNewsAsia) October 29, 2020
The UN High Representative “is following with deep concern the growing tensions and instances of intolerance triggered by the publication of the satirical caricatures depicting Prophet Mohammed,” according to the statement.
“The inflammatory caricatures have also provoked acts of violence against innocent civilians who were attacked for their sheer religion, belief or ethnicity,” Moratinos said in the statement, without explicitly referring to Macron’s defense of the images.
“European leaders should tell French President Macron to stop his hate campaign.”
Turkey's Erdogan has joined growing calls to #BoycottFrenchProducts across several Muslim countries.
Read more: https://t.co/yznBLHjzKH pic.twitter.com/MEZXm7uLKN
— Al Jazeera English (@AJEnglish) October 27, 2020
“Insulting religions and sacred religious symbols provoke hatred and violent extremism leading to polarization and fragmentation of the society,” he warned.
Read more: Turkey and France: tensions escalate
The statement said freedom of religion and freedom of expression are “interdependent, interrelated and mutually re-enforcing rights” rooted in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, reported Al Jazeera.
“Upholding and protecting these fundamental rights is the primary responsibility of member states,” the statement read.
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.
Read more: ‘Do not mess with Turkey’: Turkish President Erdogan takes on France’s Macron
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.’
Prime Minister Imran Khan’s Reaction to the French President’s speech
Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan criticized 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: Op-ed: Macron’s myopic views about Islam need to change
“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.”
AFP with additional information from Global Village Space.