French President Emmanuel Macron delivers a speech to present his strategy to fight separatism, Friday Oct. 2, 2020 in Les Mureaux, outside Paris.
This article originally published on October 27 has been updated to take account of new developments.
The French president has become a particular target for anger in parts of the Muslim world, amid a renewed row over the publication of caricatures of Prophet Muhammad.
Emmanuel Macron has repeated his vow to defend freedom of expression in France, following the barbaric murder of a teacher who had discussed with his class the cartoons published by a French paper.
In an interview with Al Jazeera (in French) he said he understood and respected the feelings of Muslims who are offended by the drawings, but that could never justify physical violence.
Blaming “lies and distortions of my words” for the reaction, he pointed out that the caricatures were “not a government project” but came from “free and independent newspapers”.
Macron denied attacking Islam, saying France has “no problem” with the religion which is practised by millions of people in France who “want to live in peace”.
His targets, he said, were terrorism and those who promote “radical Islam”. “These are violent extremists who distort the religion and commit violence within Islam,” he added, claiming that Muslims accounted for 80% of the victims of Islamist terrorism in the world over the past 40 years.
Macron’s by a Tunisian man, and a security guard at a French consulate in Saudi Arabia was wounded by a man with a knife.
Before these events, he had sparked controversy over his defence of freedom of expression and attack on “radical Islam” and “Islamist separatism” in the wake of Samuel Paty’s beheading.
The French president’s remarks drew fire from Turkey’s President Erdogan — who slammed “rising Islamophobia in the West” and called for a boycott of French products — as well as protests across the Muslim world from