Amid a global uproar, the French President Emmanuel Macron said he “understands” the reaction over the offensive Prophet Muhammad caricatures.
French President Emmanuel Macron said he understands if Muslims were shocked by the caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad, in the latest television interview since tensions increased between France and the Muslim world.
“I can understand that people could be shocked by the caricatures but I will never accept that violence can be justified,” Macron said in an interview with Qatar’s flagship Al Jazeera network.
There are people who “distort Islam’s teachings,” he added.
The latest television appearance showed the French president seeking a softer stance after describing Islam as a religion “in crisis” worldwide and affirming his country would “not give up cartoons”.
He had earlier consistently defended the publishing of the offensive caricatures of Islam’s Prophet Muhammad, prompting global backlash, boycott movements and protests.
Speaking to Al Jazeera, Macron claimed his remarks have been “distorted” to make it seem like he was supportive of the cartoons, despite his refusal to denounce the cartoons earlier.
“I consider it our duty to protect our freedoms and our rights,” Macron added the interview broadcast on Al Jazeera on Saturday.
In an apparent bid to shift the narrative after worldwide criticism, Macron said in the interview that Muslims are also victims of terrorism, adding that acts committed in the name of the religion are a blight.
A number of attacks were reported in France since the cartoons were published, with Muslims in the country also being targeted and assaulted.
In recent weeks, French authorities have launched large-scale crackdown on Islamic entities in the country, raiding more than 50 mosques and associations.
The French magazine at the centre of the cartoon controversy, Charlie Hebdo, republished the offensive caricatures of Islam’s Prophet Muhammad earlier this month.
As a response, Muslims around the world launched a virtual campaign to condemn France’s Islamophobia, calling for a boycott of French products. Protesters have also taken to the streets in capitals around the world to denounce the ongoing provocation.
Just days later, France called on leaders in the Arab and Muslim world to stop “baseless” calls for boycott in their countries.
The Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), the second-largest inter-governmental body after the United Nations, slammed France’s anti-Muslim rhetoric.
“We condemn the constant systematic attack on the feelings of Muslims by insulting the religious symbols represented by the person of the Prophet Muhammad,” an OIC statement read.