The French foreign minister said that France’s policies had been “distorted in a campaign against our country”.
France’s policies against “extremism” facing strong criticism around the world have been distorted and are not Islamophobic, its foreign minister said Thursday.
Paris has faced a backlash for a bill introduced to crack down on “radicalism” which tightens the rules on religious-based education and polygamy following a wave of attacks.
Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian declared following the attacks, “our positions and declarations [on combatting extremism] have been widely distorted and deformed in a campaign against our country ”.
“[Our position] could have been misunderstood by believers who might have thought that their beliefs were not being respected, ”said Le Drian, in Qatar for a one-day official visit, during a press briefing.
“We have the utmost respect for Islam.”
Tensions have erupted between France and Muslim countries following President Emmanuel Macron’s comments in October defending the cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad, banned by Islam, and calling the religion “in crisis”.
Although Qatar has not directly criticized France, some leading Qatari retailers have instituted boycotts of French products in response to the comments.
The Qatari foreign minister, who spoke alongside Le Drian, said that “violent extremism is not linked or linked to any religion”.
“We must firmly oppose Islamophobic rhetoric, just as the world opposes all forms of racist rhetoric,” said Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani.
Muslims around the world have protested Macron’s fierce defense of secular values and the right to laugh at religion after a French schoolteacher who showed his class the cartoons was beheaded in October.
Ally of Turkey
The French government on Wednesday defended the bill as a “law of liberty” after a torrent of criticism from Muslim countries and expressions of concern from the United States.
“This bill is not a text aimed against religions or against the Muslim religion in particular,” Prime Minister Jean Castex told reporters after the cabinet approved a text to be presented to parliament.
Analysts believe the long-term impact of the controversy will depend on France’s next steps.
Dozens of leading French brands are active in Qatar, including construction companies, retailers and luxury brands such as Louis Vuitton, beloved in the oil-rich country.
French highlights in Qatar include the National Museum of Qatar designed by Jean Nouvel in Doha, the new metro signaling system, and an outpost of the Galeries Lafayette department store.
Qatar is also a major buyer of French military equipment with its order for 36 Rafale fighter jets worth 8.7 billion euros ($ 10.5 billion), according to the Military Balance survey by the International Institute for Strategic Studies.
Le Drian also said he had discussed Libya with Sheikh Al Thani and, in a statement released after their meeting, called for “an end to foreign interference in Libya, support for the implementation of a ceasefire and the UN [United Nations] efforts to organize credible elections ”.
France has clashed on several occasions with Turkey, a staunch ally of Qatar, over the strategy in Libya, with both sides supporting parties opposed to the conflict.