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Etienne de Gonneville. Photo : Ambassade de France en Suède
Stockholm

French ambassador to Sweden: ‘France is a Muslim country’

On Friday a memorial service was held in Stockholm for Professor Samuel Paty, beheaded in France after showing caricatures of Mohammed in a lecture on freedom of expression. The ceremony included a burnt Quran outside the Swedish parliament.

Published: October 28, 2020, 6:52 am

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    However, two police officers intervened and tried to confiscate the Quran, claiming to want to “maintain order in the square”. The organizer was informed that he was suspected of inciting hatred against ethnic groups but eventually succeeded in setting the book on fire.

    The gruesome murder of teacher Samuel Paty, who showed cartoons of the Prophet, has stirred up ethnic tension in France, sparking lively protests in defence of free speech.

    But the French Ambassador to Sweden Etienne de Gonneville, firmly rejected the idea that there was a risk of a conflict between France and the Muslim world. In an interview with Swedish national broadcaster SVT, de Gonneville went so far as to call France “a Muslim country”.

    “First, France is a Muslim country,” Etienne de Gonneville proclaimed. “Islam is the second-largest religion in France. We have anywhere between 4 and 8 million French citizens who have a Muslim heritage,” he said.

    The ambassador blamed “al-Qaeda propaganda” for inciting Muslims to commit acts of terrorism. But anchor Anders Holmberg pointed out the obvious: Even Muslims who are not radical are offended by the cartoon images.

    De Gonneville quickly dismissed his “loaded and morally ambiguous question”.

    “The media must know how to address the issue of Islamic terrorism and not fall into the trap of that idea that it would supposedly offend Islam. Islam is very diverse. Those who we hear now are speaking for these radical Islamist outfits. We should not give them more weight than they have. They are a tiny minority,” he said.

    Etienne de Gonneville advanced some of the most astonishing arguments in also arguing that “the first people I want to listen to are the Muslims of France”. When the journalist asked him: “But what are they saying?” the ambassador was unable to answer and again deflected the question.

    The Muslim world has meanwhile continued its anti-French campaign. On Tuesday, October 27, tens of thousands of people (40 000 according to the police) demonstrated in the streets of Dhaka, the capital of Bangladesh, calling for a boycott of French products, Le Figaro reported. An effigy of Emmanuel Macron was set on fire, in reaction to his recent declarations on the freedom to caricature Mohammed. This discontented mob was stopped not far from the French embassy, ​​around which hundreds of police had erected barbed wire barriers.

    The protest was organized by Islami Andolan Bangladesh (IAB), one of Bangladesh’s main Islamist parties. It started outside the Baitul Mukarram National Mosque, the largest in the country, in central Dhaka. Participants chanted slogans calling in particular for a “boycott of French products” and “punish” Emmanuel Macron. At the podium, a senior IAB official, Ataur Rahman, even claimed that the French president was “one of the few leaders who worship Satan” . He also called on the Bangladeshi government to “kick out” the French ambassador.

    The French diplomatic mission had feared the worst after another Islamist leader, Hasan Jamal, had declared that the protesters would “knock down every brick” of the building if the ambassador was not fired. “France is the enemy of Muslims. Those who represent it are also our enemies,” said Nesar Uddin, in charge of the organization. After the demonstration dispersed, many participants continued to march through the adjacent streets shouting slogans like: “Macron will pay dearly”.

    Chechnya joined the protests with President Ramzan Kadyrov and the grand mufti Salakh-Khadji Mejiev, advisor to the Head of State, qualifying the President of the French Republic as “terrorist” according to Paris Match.

    “Macron, you are the number one terrorist in the world”, launched the religious leader, describing the head of state as the “most miserable creature”. Salakh-Khadji Mejiev also considered that he was “the enemy of Allah the Almighty, the enemy of humanity, the enemy of all Muslims who has neither principles nor moral values”. The Chechen mufti continued by asserting that Emmanuel Macron had launched “a well-planned attack against Islam and the entire Muslim community, which could lead to new human victims”.

    He concluded: “You are deliberately inciting Muslims to commit provocative actions, having made a mad professor a ‘national hero’.”

    The President of the Chechen Republic Ramzan Kadyrov also spoke on the subject, in a message published on his Telegram channel on Tuesday, October 27. The head of state wondered “in what state Macron was” when he took part in the cartoons of Mohammed. “The consequences of such a reaction could be very tragic. The French president is starting to look like a terrorist. Supporting provocations, he secretly calls on Muslims to commit crimes,” he said.

    For him, “the mockery and parodies aimed at faith [which] were at the origin of the tragic fate of a teacher in the Paris suburbs”. The Chechen president ended by issuing a warning to the French leader: “Stop, Macron, before it is too late, the provocations and attacks on the faith”.

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