The President of France, Emmanuel Macron has declared in an interview with Al Jazeera on Saturday that the “radical Islam” he is trying to fight in his country is a threat to all people, especially Muslims.
He said that he understands the feelings of Muslims who are shocked by the displaying of cartoons of Prophet Mohammad amid heightened tensions between the French government and the Muslim world over the cartoons, which Muslims consider to be blasphemous.
“I understand the sentiments being expressed and I respect them. But you must understand my role right now, it’s to do two things: to promote calm and also to protect these rights,” Macron said.
“I will always defend in my country the freedom to speak, to write, to think, to draw,” he added.
Macron also hit out at what he described as “distortions” from political leaders, saying people were often led to believe that the caricatures were a creation of the French state.
“I think that the reactions came as a result of lies and distortions of my words because people understood that I supported these cartoons,” the president said in the interview.
This came after tens of thousands of Muslims – from Pakistan to Bangladesh to the Palestinian territories – poured out of prayer services to join anti-France protests on Friday, as the French president’s promise to protect the right to caricature the Prophet Mohammad continues to roil the Islamic world.
An estimated 40,000 people in Bangladesh marched after Friday prayers in the capital Dhaka.
The angry protesters carried signs reading “World Muslims united,” “Macron will pay a high price,” “Stop Islamophobia,” and “Macron is Satan.”
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