So now French President Emmanuel Macron too is a racist, Islamophobe, etc. Till a few months ago, he was, along with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, a shining example of multiculturalist politics, a bulwark against the rising tide of ‘far-Right,’ xenophobic politicians. But when he upheld free speech—a founding principle of the French Republic—the Islamic world is vilifying and criticizing him no end. Major Muslims leaders like President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan want Macron to stop supporting Charlie Hebdo and start imposing curbs on the freedom of expression.
Responding to the murder of a teacher, Samuel Paty, in Paris by a jihadist a few weeks ago, Macron called it an “Islamist terrorist attack.” He said, “One of our fellow citizens was assassinated today because he was teaching, he was teaching pupils about freedom of expression.”
Macron also said, “He [Paty] was killed because the Islamists want our future. They know that with quiet heroes like him, they will never have it.”
This incensed Imran Khan. He tweeted, “This is a time when Pres Macron could have put healing touch & denied space to extremists rather than creating further polarization & marginalization that inevitably leads to radicalization.”
Healing touch to what? The sensibilities of Islamists who want any criticism of their faith to be proscribed and penalized? Or to France’s belief system which is under threat of Islamist intimidation? Obviously, the French President would uphold the values of his own nation, the ideals which were cultivated and curated by great philosophers and authors like Voltaire, Sartre, and Camus.
“It is unfortunate that he [Macron] has chosen to encourage Islamophobia by attacking Islam rather than the terrorists who carry out violence, be it Muslims, White Supremacists or Nazi ideologists,” Khan wrote in another tweet.
In the world Khan and Erdogan live, any criticism of Islam is Islamophobia—a phony doctrine birthed and nurtured by postmodern or New Left ideologues. Such leaders are unwilling or incapable to come to terms with the imperatives of modernity, the imperatives that banish the very idea of blasphemy from public discourse. This is the essence of French—indeed Western—ethos.
Just because Macron is abiding by the ethos of his own nation, Khan is alluding that the former is in league with White Supremacists or Nazi ideologists.
Erdogan’s men are angry with Macron for something even less offensive: caricaturing the Turkish President. Charlie Hebdo’s front-page caricature of Wednesday’s online edition shows Erdogan in a casual attire with a can of beer and lifting up the burqa of a woman from behind, thus baring her posterior. “Ooh, the prophet!” he says in a speech bubble. The title says, “Erdogan: in private, he’s very funny.”
Fahrettin Altun, Erdogan’s top press aide, tweeted: “We condemn this most disgusting effort by this publication to spread its cultural racism and hatred.”
Also, “French President Macron’s anti-Muslim agenda is bearing fruit! Charlie Hebdo just published a series of so-called cartoons full of despicable images purportedly of our President.”
In other words, Erdogan’s henchmen believe that Macron should make France a Xerox copy of Turkey, which neither individual liberty nor free speech nor press freedom has any meaning. Macron has refused to do that, and he is being maligned for his principled stand.