Can fundamentalist Islam co-exist with the Western ideal of freedom of speech? Angry reaction to mere drawings done by cartoonists – and official defense of such drawings in France – suggest it cannot.
According to reporting by the South China Morning Post, a group called Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb urged followers on Nov. 2 to execute anyone who “insults” the Prophet Mohammed. Insulting a man who has been dead for nearly 1,400 years would seem difficult, yet the group threatened French President Emmanuel Macron specifically over his defense of the publication of cartoons depicting Mohammed as protected free speech.
Macron’s stance sparked fury across the Muslim world.
“Killing anyone who insults the prophet is the right of each and every Muslim,” the jihadist group said in a statement, highlighting differences with Western societies where no one is allowed to kill anyone else except in dire need of self-defense.
Macron was reacting to the recent beheading of French teacher Samuel Paty near Paris by a jihadist. Paty had shown his students cartoons of Mohammed during a lesson on freedom of expression. His lesson followed the republication of the controversial cartoons in September by the French newspaper Charlie Hebdo.
The Al-Qaeda group threatened vengeance for Macron’s comments, describing the French leader as “young and unexperienced, with a little brain” and saying he had “insisted on offending the Prophet”.
French schools held a nationwide minute of silence on Nov. 2 in honor of Paty, with officials recalling the country’s Enlightenment past as they urged students and teachers alike to look to the future.