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French FM says measures, remarks against Muslims not anti-Islam

French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian speaks during a joint press conference with his Qatari counterpart, in Qatar's capital Doha, on December 10, 2020. (Photo by AFP)

French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian has dismissed global outrage against his country over its offensive positions and measures against Islam and Muslims, claiming that they were meant to clamp down on “radicalism” but “distorted” as Islamophobic.

“Our positions and statements were largely distorted and misrepresented as part of a campaign against our country,” Le Drrian claimed during an official visit to the Persian Gulf state of Qatar, which is a major importer of French armaments and products.

“[Our position] might have been misunderstood by believers who might have felt their beliefs were being disrespected,” he added in a press briefing during a one-day stop in the small oil-rich kingdom.

 “We have the utmost respect for Islam,” he further claimed, despite France’s unprecedented hostile measures against French Muslims in recent months and its President Emmanuel Macron describing Islam as a religion “in crisis.”

Such insulting statements, as well as Macron’s declaration of war on what he alleged as “Islamic separatism” across France, have angered the country’s six-million-strong Muslim population and Muslims across the globe, prompting countless protest rallies and universal calls to boycott French products.

Furthermore, French authorities have also ordered a six-month shutdown of the Grand Mosque of Pantin in a low-income Paris suburb as part of a crackdown against Muslims.

Macron also issued a controversial ultimatum to Muslim leaders across France to proclaim that Islam is an apolitical religion” or face unspecified “consequences.” The French interior ministry also confirmed last month that it had shut down 43 mosques in the country since Macron took office.

Muslims worldwide have also protested Macron’s forceful defense of France’s “secular values” and the right to insult religions after a French schoolteacher, who showed his class offensive cartoons of Islam’s Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) even after an expression of outrage by Muslims worldwide over the sacrilegious move earlier by a French publication, was beheaded in October.

The French government further defended the draft legislation as a “law of freedom” on Wednesday after a torrent of criticism from Muslim nations and expressions of concern, even from the US.

“This bill is not a text aimed against religions or against the Muslim religion in particular,” France’s Prime Minister Jean Castex proclaimed at a press briefing after Macron’s cabinet approved the text for presentation to parliament.

Meanwhile, Qatar’s Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani, who spoke alongside  Le Drian, insisted that “violent extremism is not connected or linked with any religion.”

“We must stand firmly against Islamophobic speech just as the world stands against all forms of racist rhetoric,” he added.

While Doha did not specifically censure France, many prominent Qatari retailers have instituted boycotts of French products in response to the Islamophobic remarks measures made by top authorities in Paris.

Dozens of major French brands remain active in Qatar, including construction companies, retailers and luxury brands beloved in the wealthy oil-rich state.

Qatar is also among the top purchasers of French military hardware with its order for 36 Rafale fighter jets worth $10.5 billion, according to the International Institute for Strategic Studies’ Military Balance survey.

French, Qatari FMs also discuss Libya

During his short visit, France’s top diplomat also said he discussed Libya with his Qatari counterpart and, in a statement issued following their meeting, he called for “an end to foreign interference in Libya, support for the implementation of a ceasefire, and UN efforts to hold credible elections.”

This is while Paris has clashed repeatedly with Qatar’s key ally Turkey over their meddling efforts in the war-ravaged North African nation, with the two camps sponsoring opposing militant groups in the conflict.

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