By Tasneem Adams
Ulema from the Muslim Judicial Council (MJC) and members of the Muslim community picketed outside the French consul general in the Cape Town CBD on Friday, to protest rising Islamophobia in France. Members of the ulema recited the salawat and held placards expressing their love for the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh), whose birth is celebrated this month.
French President Emmanuel Macron has angered Muslims globally after he refused to condemn the re-publication of cartoons of the Prophet (pbuh) by satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo. MJC second deputy president Shaykh Riad Fataar says they are appalled by the vilification and unwarranted attack on the beloved Nabi (pbuh).
“We want to send a message to Mr Macron – hands off our Prophet (saw). Mr Macron needs serious psychological help because a president that speaks in a way that is encouraging extremism and separatism…this is dangerous!”
Many Muslim countries are considering breaking diplomatic relations and have called for a boycott of French products. Leading the outrage has been Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who said Macron is against Muslims and is “sowing seeds of hatred”. In response, Charlie Hebdo published a cartoon of Erdogan lounging in his underwear, pulling up the skirt of a woman wearing a hijab to reveal her bottom – a move which will only escalate tensions between the two countries.
Anger over Macron’s utterances and the Charlie Hebdo cartoons has spilled over into the streets, with protesters in Turkey, Syria, Iraq, Pakistan, Bangladesh and the Palestinian territories demanding that France condemn the caricatures of the prophet.
“We applaud the Muslim presidents and leaders that have stood up. We wait for the rest of the Muslim leadership to stand up and express their love for the Prophet (SAW),” said Fataar.
He called on the SA government to take decisive action apply the necessary political and diplomatic pressure to force the French government to desist from its Islamophobic policies.
“To the South African government, this is the time you tell the French ambassador to go back to his country until France apologises and retracts what they have said about Islam and the Prophet SAW.”
Tensions have risen in France after the beheading of a French teacher, who showed the caricatures to his class, in a discussion on freedom of expression. The ulema body says freedom of speech does not afford anyone the right to vilify, disrespect and exterminate a minority community.
The MJC has called on the community to boycott all French products until these attacks on Muslims stops.
Awqaf SA said the caricatures seek only to demonize the Holy personality of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh), whilst at the same time unnecessarily provoke and insult over a billion Muslims across the globe.
“Freedom of speech, a human right, does not – however – allow carte blanche disrespect, hate speech and statements that have the potential to cause a modern day holocaust of the minority Muslim community in France. The irresponsible, dangerous statements by the French President will only serve to ignite a rash of Islamaphobic attacks on the Muslim community,” said the organisation.
“The values of democracy, egalitarianism, liberty and freedom, as espoused in the founding principles of the French Republic, are aimed at protecting vulnerable communities, not exterminating them. Furthermore, the unwarranted vilification of Muslim leaders, like Turkey’s President Erdogan who has championed on behalf of the Muslim world the dignity of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh), must stop immediately.”
Other ulema bodies have also expressed their condemnation of the French government’s discrimination of Muslims and the blasphemy of the Noble Prophet (saw). In a statement, the Jamiatul Ulama KZN said the fact that Macron is currently pushing for the Anti-Separatism Bill to be enacted cannot be overlooked. The bill seeks to grant the French government the power to shut down any Islamic institute, Madrasah or school which they deem to be “radical”. It seeks to control the Imaams that preside over Islamic Institutions, force Muslim children from as young as 3 into French secular education and outlaw any other form of education.
“Effectively, it seeks to rob French Muslims of an Islamic identity and impose on them a secular identity. In the light of this, it is not surprising that they would choose to insult and provoke the Muslim world by publicly displaying highly offensive caricatures of our Noble Master and the Greatest of Allah’s creation, Rasulullah Sallallahu Alayhi Wa Sallam,” said the organisation.
The Jamiatul Ulama South Africa issued the following statement below: