On the Islam Controversy in France

By Mohammad Bisher Shehab

Damascus, Syria

There has been a rise in anti-Islamic hatred in France (Photo Credit: Anadolu Agency)

On October 16, Samuel Paty, a French schoolteacher, was beheaded by Abdoullakh Abouyedovich Anzorov, a Muslim-Russian refugee of Chechen ethnicity and an Islamic terrorist, for showing his students images of Charlie Hebdo’s cartoons depicting Islam’s Prophet during a lesson about freedom of expression. Any depictions of Muhammad, the Prophet of Islam, is a grave offense in the religion.


There has been a rise in anti-Islamic hatred and attacks toward Muslims in recent years over accusations of terrorism and a lack of respect for Western values of free expression and freedom of religion. Despite this, most Muslims have condemned Anzorov, the perpetrator of the French attack, describing what he did as a horrible terrorist act. Even so, outrage at Paty and those who would depict the Prophet is commonplace.


French President Emmanuel Macron gave a speech at a ceremony on October 21 in honor of Samuel Paty, stating, “We will continue the fight for freedom and for reason, of which you are now the face, teacher,” a declaration that they will continue to use cartoons even if some continue to take issue with it.


Many Muslims have got the message that the French government is supporting these cartoons against Islam, which sparked protests in the Muslim world, accusing Macron of bigotry against them. Macron’s response has also resulted in boycotting all French goods and products from most Muslim countries; many stores and shops in Arab countries have emptied their shelves of well-known French brands like L’Oreal and Chanel.


In an interview, Macron explained the French position on freedom of speech and that he wasn't encouraging these cartoons, but rather protecting the right of freedom of expression. He also criticized the notion that he has any vendetta toward Muslims or the Arab world.


Freedom of speech and expression is a law and a right for most Western countries, but in the Muslim world it is not often granted, where being different can get you jailed or even killed.