02:34 GMT28 November 2020
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    The French president got into a spat with the London-based newspaper after an article published by the outlet on Tuesday wrongly called his condemnation of “Islamist separatism”, “Islamic separatism” and suggested that such rhetoric could risk creating a “hostile environment” for French Muslims. The article in question has since been removed.

    French President Emmanuel Macron has sent a letter to the editor of the Financial Times, clarifying his stance towards French Muslims after the newspaper accused him of “stigmatising” the minority community “for electoral purposes and of fostering a climate of fear and suspicion towards them".

    “Let us not nurture ignorance by distorting the words of a head of state. We know only too well where that can lead,” Macron tweeted early Thursday morning, linking the tweet to his response, which was published by the newspaper.

    “I will not allow anybody to claim that France, or its government, is fostering racism against Muslims,” he wrote in his response. France, Macron suggested, was in a fight against “Islamist separatism, never Islam.”

    Listing of a series of Islamist terror attacks France has witnessed over the past five years, Macron indicated that there are unfortunately still “certain districts” in France and online which become “terrorist breeding grounds” where “small girls wear the full veil and are raised to hate our values.”

    “This is what France is fighting against…hatred and death that threaten its children – never against Islam. We oppose deception, fanaticism, violent extremism. Not a religion,” Macron added.

    Macron recalled recent religious radicalism-driven attacks in Paris, including those on the editorial staff of the satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo in 2015, a stabbing attack outside the paper’s former offices in September 2020, as well as the beheading of French history teacher Samuel Paty by a radicalised teenager on 16 October and the knife attack outside a church in the city of Nice on 29 October.

    Paty was killed after showing his pupils a cartoon of Muhammad, which he used as a teaching aid for a lesson about freedom of speech. Macron sparked a wave of protests and calls for French goods across the Muslim World to be boycotted last month after he praised Paty and vowed that France would never renounce its freedom of speech laws for ‘blasphemous’ content.

    In his response to the FT, Macron reiterated that France would not waiver from its support for the freedom of expression, as well as “the right to believe or not to believe and a certain way of life.”

    The FT later removed the questionable article from its website, saying it made the decision to do so “after it emerged that it contained factual errors".

    Paris Tightens Border Controls

    On Thursday, Macron announced that Paris would strengthen border controls within the visa-free Schengen area amid a heightened threat of terrorism, with additional controls to be set up to apprehend would-be illegal immigrants and migrant-trafficking networks, which the President said often have links to terrorist groups.

    Earlier in the day, French media reported that Paris had opened some 187 investigations into suspected violent extremism since Samuel Paty’s death.

    On Monday, a separate media report indicated that al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb* had threatened Macron and suggested that the killing of anyone who “insults the Prophet” Muhammad was the “right of each and every Muslim".

    * A terrorist group outlawed in Russia and many other countries.


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