Doha: French President Emmanuel Macron said in an interview with Al Jazeera he understood why Muslims were upset by cartoons of Prophet Muhammad but argued their publication not up to him.
“I understand how Muslims feel about publications of cartoons depicting Prophet Muhammad but the [French] government is not the one behind them. They are published by free and independent media that are not affiliated with the government,” he told the Qatari broadcaster.
Macron said he had been wrongly portrayed as a person who supported such caricatures but added that Muslims had been suffering from people who distorted Islam.
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 in the interview.
“Today in the world there are people who distort Islam and in the name of this religion that they claim to defend, they kill, they slaughter. Today there is violence practised by some extremist movements and individuals in the name of Islam.”
“Of course this is a problem for Islam because Muslims are the first victims,” Macron continued. “More than 80 percent of the victims of terrorism are Muslims, and this is a problem for all of us.”
The French president spoke in the wake of a violent killing of three people by a knife-wielding man in a church in Nice that the mayor called an act of ‘Islamic fascism’.
The attack followed the beheading of a French teacher after he showed cartoons of the prophet to his students.