Facing protests in the Muslim world over his response to terror attacks in France, French President Emmanuel Macron telephoned a New York Times media columnist to rail against “bias” in the English-language media and accuse some newspapers of “legitimizing this violence.”
In the Times interview, Macron said media outside France did not understand the concept of the separation of church and state, and condemned newspapers which criticized France’s policy toward Muslims.
Macron has been the subject of protests for his perceived attacks on Islam, after he backed the publication of cartoons depicting the Prophet Mohammed and said in a speech that Islam “is in crisis all over the world today.”
Protesters in some countries have called for a boycott of French products.
Speaking to the Times, Macron reiterated his anger at some of the English-language media’s response to recent attacks by Muslim terrorists in France.
Samuel Paty, a history teacher, was beheaded on Oct. 16 after he showed his class cartoons from the magazine Charlie Hebdo, which mocked Mohammed, during a debate on free speech. On Oct. 29, three people were killed in an attack in a church in Nice.
“When France was attacked five years ago, every nation in the world supported us,” Macron said, referring to the series of terrorist attacks across Paris in November 2015 in which 130 people were killed.
“So when I see, in that context, several newspapers which I believe are from countries that share our values — journalists who write in a country that is the heir to the Enlightenment and the French Revolution — when I see them legitimizing this violence, and saying that the heart of the problem is that France is racist and Islamophobic, then I say the founding principles have been lost,” he said.
He said foreign media did not understand the concept of laicite — secularism, or the separation between church and state.
“There is a sort of misunderstanding about what the European model is, and the French model in particular,” Macron said. “American society used to be segregationist before it moved to a multiculturalist model, which is essentially about coexistence of different ethnicities and religions next to one another.”
The French model was “universalist, not multiculturalist,” he said. “In our society, I don’t care whether someone is black, yellow or white, whether they are Catholic or Muslim. A person is first and foremost a citizen.”
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