France urges Arab nations to drop boycott calls

France has urged Arab countries to stop calls for boycotts of French products, while President Emmanuel Macron vowed the country would never give in to “Islamic radicals.”

The French foreign ministry said in a statement Sunday that there have been calls in recent days to boycott French products, notably food products, in several Middle Eastern countries, as well as calls for demonstrations against France over the publication of blasphemous cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh).

“These calls for boycott are baseless and should stop immediately, as well as all attacks against our country, which are being pushed by a radical minority,” the statement said.

On Sunday, Macron said in a tweet: “We will not give in, ever” to Islamic radicals. “We do not accept hate speech and defend reasonable debate,” the French leader added.

Calls to boycott French goods are already growing in the Arab world and beyond, after President Emmanuel Macron criticised “Islamists” and vowed not to “give up cartoons” depicting the Prophet (pbuh).

Macron’s comments came after teacher Samuel Paty was beheaded outside his school in a suburb outside Paris after he had shown blasphemous cartoons of the Prophet (pbuh) during a class on free speech.

Kuwait’s non-governmental Union of Consumer Co-operative Societies has already pulled several French products from stores.

“All French products have been removed from all Consumer Cooperative Societies,” union head Fahd Al-Kishti told Reuters, adding that the move was in response to “repeated insults” against the Prophet (pbuh) and had been taken independently of Kuwait’s government.

In Saudi Arabia, the Arab world’s largest economy, a hashtag calling for the boycott of French supermarket retailer Carrefour was the second most trending on Sunday.

Similar calls for boycott have been issued also by groups in Jordan and Qatar.

Meanwhile, Pakistani leader Imran Khan has slammed French President Macron’s views on Islam. He has also sought a ban on “Islamophobic content” on Facebook.

“This is a time when President Macron could have put a healing touch and denied space to extremists rather than creating further polarization and marginalisation that inevitably leads to radicalisation,” 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.

On Sunday, Khan also sought a ban on Islamophobic content on Facebook, similar to the ban Facebook has for content on the Holocaust.

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.”

Khan’s comments came after Turkish President Erdogan blasted France and Europe on Saturday over what he saw as “rising Islamophobia.”

“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.

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