France urges Arab countries to stop boycott of French products

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France urged Arab countries on Sunday to stop calls for boycotts of French products, while President Emmanuel Macron vowed the country would never give in to Islamic radicals.

The French foreign ministry said in a statement Sunday that there have been calls in recent days to boycott French products, notably food products, in several Middle Eastern countries, as well as calls for demonstrations against France over the publication of satirical cartoons of the Prophet Mohammad.

“These calls for boycott are baseless and should stop immediately, as well as all attacks against our country, which are being pushed by a radical minority,” the statement said.

On Sunday, Macron said in a tweet: “We will not give in, ever” to Islamic radicals. “We do not accept hate speech and defend reasonable debate,” the French leader added.

Boycotts already underway

Calls to boycott French goods are already growing in the Arab world and beyond, after President Emmanuel Macron criticised Islamists and vowed not to “give up cartoons” depicting the Prophet Mohammed.

Macron’s initial comments, on Wednesday, came in response to the beheading of a teacher, Samuel Paty, outside his school in a suburb outside Paris earlier this month, after he had shown cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed during a class on free speech.

Muslims see any depiction of the Prophet as blasphemous.

Kuwait’s non-governmental Union of Consumer Co-operative Societies has already pulled several French products from stores. Several co-ops visited by Reuters on Sunday had cleared the shelves of items such as hair and beauty products made by French companies.

“All French products have been removed from all Consumer Cooperative Societies,” union head Fahd Al-Kishti told Reuters, adding that the move was in response to “repeated insults” against the Prophet and had been taken independently of Kuwait’s government.

Boycott calls on social media

The co-ops, some the size of hypermarkets, carry government-subsidised staples for Kuwaitis and account for a big part of retail in the country, as well as organising some educational courses and recreational activities.

In Saudi Arabia, the Arab world’s largest economy, a hashtag calling for the boycott of French supermarket retailer Carrefour was the second most trending on Sunday.

Similar calls for boycott have been issued also by groups in Jordan and Qatar.

The Organisation of Islamic Cooperation on Friday decried the brutal murder that has shaken France but also criticised the “justification for blasphemy-based harassment of any religion in the name of freedom of expression”. (FRANCE 24)

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