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OPINION | Should Muslims Really be Enraged by Macron's Statement on Islam Amid France Terror Attacks?

A youth holds a photograph of France's President Emmanuel Macron, stamped with a shoe mark, during a protest against France in Istanbul, Sunday, Oct. 25, 2020. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Sunday challenged the United States to impose sanctions against his country while also launching a second attack on French President Emmanuel Macron. Speaking a day after he suggested Macron needed mental health treatment because of his attitude to Islam and Muslims, which prompted France to recall its ambassador to Ankara, Erdogan took aim at foreign critics. (AP Photo/Emrah Gurel)

A youth holds a photograph of France's President Emmanuel Macron, stamped with a shoe mark, during a protest against France in Istanbul, Sunday, Oct. 25, 2020. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Sunday challenged the United States to impose sanctions against his country while also launching a second attack on French President Emmanuel Macron. Speaking a day after he suggested Macron needed mental health treatment because of his attitude to Islam and Muslims, which prompted France to recall its ambassador to Ankara, Erdogan took aim at foreign critics. (AP Photo/Emrah Gurel)

France has had a history when it comes to be the centre of such controversy, Charlie Hebdo being one and the shooting incident followed. But, why depiction of Prophet Muhammad is so heavily criticised in Muslim world.

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Meeqat Hashmi

It isn’t the first time that the depiction of Prophet Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Him) has enraged Muslims all around the globe and do not believe that it will be the last time. While global politics is heading towards more crystal-clear approach of either Right or Left, such incident of a Muslim youth beheading a teacher in France for depicting Prophet’s image is not helping anyone to be honest.

France has had a history when it comes to being the centre of such controversy, Charlie Hebdo being one and the shooting incident followed. But, why depiction of Prophet Muhammad is so heavily criticised in Muslim world.

Islam, like Abrahamic and biblical religions, revolves around the basic principle of belief in oneness of God. What is followed by the guidance of a Prophet. What Moses (Musa Alayhi As-Salaam*) and Jesus (Isa Alayhi As-Salaam) are to Judaism and Christianity respectively, Muhammad is that to Islam.

As Christian community heavily debates on how white or pale was Jesus, Judaism and Islam are aniconic in nature. The whole idea is to be closer to God in spirit rather than being entangled in the fantasizing nature of superpower.

For same reasons, you won’t find Prophet Muhammad’s images or silhouettes as people get much more enamoured with imagery depiction rather than following the teaching. However, it is not strange to find silhouettes of Prophet Muhammad and the revered personality Ali (R.A), who was one of the pious Caliph, in Shia sect of Muslims.

There are also depictions of Prophet which are kept for artistic purposes in museums across Iran, UK, US and Egypt. There isn’t much uproar about them because usually they are not for public consumption.

What really offends Muslims is the caricature or the satirical versions of the Prophet masked under the “freedom of expression”. What’s wrong with Macron’s wording?

What would you have said if you were made French president on the day when the beheading happened? “One of our citizens was assassinated today because he was teaching, because he was teaching pupils freedom of expression,” French President Emmanuel Macron had said after the incident. Putting myself in his place, I would have said things on similar line irrespective of my belief.

However, it was not Macron’s statement which opened the Pandora's box rather it was the Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s counter statement which made this an issue of prestige for Muslim world.

Mentioning that the French leader has “lost his mind”, Erdogan placed a convenient call for boycotting French products. Knowing the recent history (Azerbaijan and Armenian conflict over the Nagorno-Karabakh region) between the two nations, it is fair to say that the French boycott was a clever ploy by the Turkish leader.

For Erdogan, it is more about exerting power in the already tumultuous French-Turkish relationship than his love and worry for the Muslim world or Islam and Prophet. If that is not the case then there would have been a systematic ban on Chinese products in Turkey as Uighurs Muslims, having Turkic origins, allegedly have been persecuted in Xinjiang province for long.

Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan has emerged as the second world leader who remained vocal and took “offence” to French President’s words. Former cricketer-turned-politician also wrote a letter to Muslim states to take action to counter Islamophobia.

While he mentioned persecution of Muslims in Bosnia, Iraq, Afghanistan and Kashmir, Imran Khan carefully omitted Xinjiang. We all know how much of strategic importance does China hold for Pakistan.

“Islam in crisis”

Another statement from Emmanuel Macron which garnered much attention during this social media uproar of boycotting French product was: “a religion (Islam) that is in crisis all over the world today”.

It can easily be inferred from what he meant but to an extent I also believe in that statement for my own reasons. I believe “Islam is in crisis” when Saudi Arabia bans Iranian (geo-political tension more than religious) to perform Hajj, one of the five pillars of Islam, and no one from Muslim world bats an eye to condemn such action.

I believe “Islam is in crisis” as Pakistan boasted anti-Shia rallies in Karachi this year and no one called them out on encouraging sectarian violence.

Macron’s stand and a Muslim’s perspective

As Hijab/Burqa ban in public exists in France, it is paradoxical which counters the “freedom of expression” theory, the existence of secularism will be a constant debate within the country that also has shown xenophobic nature in past.

Muslims should be vocal but it should be motivated on community basis rather than backed by political biasness. The uproar about boycotting French products should have been a secondary agenda as two Muslim women were repeatedly stabbed under the Eiffel Tower as racial slurs were hurled against them. This incident occurred days after the teacher beheading incident. Maybe an uproar from global Muslim community would have pressurised Macron to give out an equally condemning statement about hate crime against Muslims and maybe the horrible incident of Nice on Thursday would have been averted.

Alayhi As-Salaam – May God be pleased with them.


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