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Why Macron wants more international support over the recent terror attacks in France


French President Emmanuel Macron speaking during the Paris Peace Forum at the Élysée  Palace on November 12, 2020.

POOL/AFP via Getty Images

French President Emmanuel Macron raised his voice over the weekend on what he perceived as a lack of support from world governments, and a lack of understanding from English-speaking media, over the recent terror attacks in France and his policy to fight radical Islamism.

  • “When France was attacked five years ago, every nation in the world supported us,” Macron told the New York Times, in a reference to the 2015 attacks at the Charlie Hebdo newspaper and later that year at a concert venue and several other places in Paris, when more than 130 people were killed.

  • In the unusual phone call, which he initiated with the newspaper, Macron complains about commentaries or criticism to the effect that  “racist and Islamophobic” France bears a responsibility for the terror attacks. He argues, “then I say our founding principles have been lost.”

  • In a long, wide-ranging interview with Le Grand Continent on foreign policy with a French review, Macron also criticizes the reaction that France should “change its laws” and censor caricatures of religions. “I am for respecting cultures and civilisations, but I am not going to change our laws because they shock elsewhere,” he insists.

  • In recent weeks, both the Financial Times and Politico Europe pulled opinion pieces about France and Islam on account of factual errors.

Oct. 2020: Muslims call for French goods boycott to protest caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad

The outlook: Anti-French demonstrations in parts of the Muslim world and commentaries implying that the country is partly responsible for the recent attacks have hit a nerve. Macron had detailed his plans to improve the relationship between France’s secular state and French Islam practitioners just a few weeks before a string of terror attacks started with the beheading of teacher Samuel Paty on Oct. 16.

Many Western commentaries seemed to imply that France’s tolerance of aggressive religious caricature was to blame for the attacks, but the French president struck a defiant tone when insisting that he would not give way on “values” such as freedom of expression. On the other hand, ever since he joined a socialist government as economy minister back in 2014, Macron has also acknowledged that the social and economic causes of terrorism should also be addressed.

But the lack of enthusiasm from other European governments in expressing their solidarity with France in recent weeks should be of more concern to him than U.S. media coverage.

Read: What the Vienna attack may mean for Europe’s fight against terrorism

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