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Campaign to boycott French products gains steam

By Maram Kayed - Oct 26,2020 - Last updated at Oct 26,2020

Palestinians lift placards during a rally in front of the municipality of the West Bank city of Hebron, in response to comments by French President Emmanuel Macron defending cartoons of Prophet Mohammed, on Sunday (AFP photo)

AMMAN — Social media users in Jordan have launched a campaign calling for the boycott of French products in response to the European country’s alleged Islamaphobia following the beheading of a teacher who had shown offensive caricatures of Prophet Mohammad in class. 

Samuel Paty, 47, was beheaded by an 18-year-old Russian refugee of Chechen origin on October 16 after he had given a class on freedom of speech that included cartoons of Prophet Mohammad. The suspect was shot dead by police after killing Paty close to his school.

On Wednesday, French President Emmanuel Macron posthumously awarded Paty the Legion d’Honneur, France’s highest honour, with the president vowing “not to give up” cartoons depicting Prophet Mohammad in defence of his country’s freedom of speech.

Following the teacher’s killing, the French government launched a crackdown on a number Muslim organisations accused of terrorism. Some protesters attacked mosques and two Muslim women, who were wearing hijab (head cover), were stabbed near the Eiffel Tower.

On Saturday, Jordan’s Foreign Ministry condemned the “continued publication of caricatures of Prophet Mohammed under the pretext of freedom of expression” and any “discriminatory and misleading attempts that seek to link Islam with terrorism”.

Jordanian social media users on Wednesday launched a campaign after Macron’s statements and similar campaigns were launched in other Muslim countries, including Kuwait, Pakistan, Algeria, the UAE, Egypt, and others.

On Sunday, a Jordanian named Mohammad Abu Eid claimed on his Facebook page that he and his sister had been the target of a “racist and Islamophobic attack”, which added fuel to the boycott campaign.

Supporters of the campaign used the trending hashtags “#Our Prophet is a red line,” “#France Boycott” and “#Boycott French Products.” Many Jordanians have changed their profiles on Facebook to add the message “Respect Mohammad the Prophet of Allah (God)”.

Dima Tahboub, a former member of parliament and a professor of Middle Eastern studies, encouraged the boycott of French products and asked Jordanians to “step up for their prophet”.

“Although the beheading incident was wrong, racists and Islamophobes are only using the incident to justify the violence they have wanted to unleash on Muslims for decades,” said Anwar Ahmad, a student, in an Instagram post.

Others shared information about French products and French companies for the purpose of boycott.

Sami Hamdi, editor-in-chief of  online magazine The Interest, said: “There is an overwhelming sense that Macron’s rhetoric is not about protecting ‘freedom’, but to maliciously attack Islam.”

“The honour of Prophet Mohammad is the most precious belonging of every Muslim and its defence is an article of Islamic faith and love for the prophet. The display of caricatures on buildings in France must be unequivocally condemned by Muslim leadership,” said Sujul Al Huk, a Malaysian student residing in Jordan.

Islamic figures abroad also called for a boycott of French products, with Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan tweeting: “This is a time when President Macron could have put healing touch and denied space to extremists rather than creating further polarisation and marginalisation that inevitably leads to radicalisation.”

France also recalled its ambassador in Turkey for consultations after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan suggested that Macron needed “a mental health check-up”.

Others, however, are against the campaign.

“First of all, if the whole of Jordan were to boycott all French products, it would not break down France’s economy,” said Noura Jamjoum, a student, on Twitter.

Jamjoum added: “Not to mention that boycotting French products does not hurt French producers as much as it hurts the local importer of these products who is Jordanian and employs hundreds if not thousands of other Jordanians.”

Laith Hani, a physician, said in a tweet: “France’s reaction is natural for a nation that just had one of its citizens beheaded in broad daylight. Of course, there will be groups who will act out in rage. It is not okay or acceptable, but it would happen if the beheader was of any other religion or ethnic group.”

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