Morocco has become the latest Arab nation to hit out at France after cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad were projected onto two French government buildings, calling it an “insulting act of provocation”.
The French government issued a statement at the weekend urging Arab countries to resist public calls for a boycott of French goods, as the row over the beheading of teacher Samuel Paty – and president Emmanuel Macron’s comments in the aftermath – continued to escalate.
On Sunday, Morocco in a statement called for France to stop “stoking resentment” and condemned the continuing publication of cartoons of the Prophet, saying that they reflect the “immaturity of their perpetrators”.
“Freedom of expression cannot, for any reason, justify the insulting provocation and the offence of the Muslim religion, which has more than two billion followers across the world. As much as it condemns all obscurantist and barbaric violence allegedly perpetrated in the name of Islam, the Kingdom of Morocco stands up against these abusive provocations of the sacredness of the Muslim religion,” said the statement.
Earlier this month, 47-year-old French teacher Paty was murdered by 18-year-old Abdoulakh A, who was later shot dead by the police. Paty was killed after he showed his students the caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad that were published in the French satirical weekly magazine Charlie Hebdo. In 2015, following the publishing of cartoons, 12 people were killed in an attack on the Paris office of Charlie Hebdo.
As the controversy grew after Paty’s death, last week those caricatures and Paty’s portrait were projected onto town halls in two cities, Montpellier and Toulouse, for several hours as part of a tribute to Paty.
French president Emmanuel Macron has already said that his country will not give up cartoons.
“We will not give in, ever. We respect 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,” Macron tweeted.
However, France’s refusal to back down and support for the controversial cartoons has led to boycott of French products across many countries of the Arab world including Moracco, Kuwait, and Qatar.
BBC News reported that in Jordan, Qatar and Kuwait, supermarket shelves were stripped of French products. In Kuwait, a major retail union ordered a boycott of French goods. Social media was also abuzz with hashtags calling for the boycott of French products.
In a statement, France’s foreign affairs ministry said the calls to boycott French products are “baseless and should stop immediately, as well as all attacks against our country, which are being pushed by a radical minority.”
However, the controversy is far from over, and in some countries the backlash to France is being led from the top. Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan continued to attack Macron over the weekend, after saying he needs to have his mental health checked. France temporarily recalled its ambassador to Istanbul in protest.