Macron faces backlash after claiming 'secularism never killed anyone'

Macron faces backlash after claiming 'secularism never killed anyone'
Amid global outrage at his remarks on Islam, Emmanuel Macron appears to have dug his heels in with his latest comment.
3 min read
01 November, 2020
Emmanuel Macron has enraged Muslims around the world with recent remarks [Getty]
Amid widespread outrage at his remarks on Islam, French President Emmanuel Macron waded deeper into debates on social media on Saturday with a tweet claiming that secularism "never killed anyone".

The tweet prompted many social media users to mock the French leader, reminding him of several dark periods in France's relatively recent history.

"France occupied Algeria for 132 years, from July 5,1830,until July 5, 1962. During the course of the struggle for independence, over 1.5 million Algerians were martyred, while hundreds of thousands more were injured, went missing or were forced from their homes," wrote one Twitter user in response, referring to France's brutal campaigns and conquest in North Africa.

"Don't talk about murder, French history is full of it," wrote another user who posted a picture of the skulls of dead Algerian anti-colonial fighters killed by French forces.

Others, meanwhile, highlighted the executions that took place during France's revolution.

"Hi, these martyred Carmelites would like a word," wrote another, referring to Christians who were killed during the 'Reign of Terror' that ensued during the French Revolution.

"Didn't they have like a revolution with a Reign of Terror that basically did exactly this in the name of laicite?" wrote another, using the French word for secularism used by Macron in his initial tweet.

In recent weeks, Macron has been at the centre of controversy in a revived debate about freedom of expression, Islam and France's treatment of its Muslim minority groups.

The French president recently defended re-published cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad, sparking a backlash from Muslims around the world.

He has also been accused of persecuting Muslims in France, with French authorities currently cracking down on Muslim NGOs under a new 'separatism' law that has been criticised as curtailing civil liberties.

The issue of religious extremism has come to the fore as France reels from October 16 beheading of teacher Samuel Paty by a suspected Islamist radical from Russia's region of Chechnya.

Read more: Calls for France boycott gain momentum as Qatar supermarkets shun French produce

The teacher had shown a class a cartoon of the Prophet Muhammad in the wake of the controversy generated by the reprinting by satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo of the caricatures to mark the beginning of the trial of suspects over the massacre of its staff in January 2015.

Even before that attack, Macron had promised a tough new campaign against Islamist radicalism which had aroused controversy and condemnation from Muslims around the world.

Protests erupted on Friday in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Mali, Mauritania and Lebanon, the latest in a string of mass rallies denouncing France.

World leaders have also weighed in on the matter, with Macron and Turkish President Recept Tayyip Erdogan trading barbs and insults in recent days.

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