France advises Arab countries to stop boycott
Supermarket shelves are empty of French products in Kuwait City in a protest of cartoons in the French media illustrating the Prophet Mohammed. The protests are spreading at an alarming rate to all Muslim countries.
France urges Arab countries to stop calls for boycotts of French products, while President Emmanuel Macron declares the country will never give in to Islamic radicals.
The French foreign ministry says in a statement 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 due to 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,” argues The French Foreign Ministry.
“We will not give in, ever to Islamic radicals. We do not accept hate speech and defend reasonable debate,” Prime Minister Macron adds.
Calls to boycott French goods are already growing in the Arab world and beyond, after President Macron criticized Islamists and vowed not to give up cartoons illustrating the Prophet Mohammed.
Macron's comments are a response to the beheading of the teacher, Samuel Paty, after he had shown cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed during a seminar on free speech and democracy.
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 Monday has cleared the shelves of items made by French companies.
“All French products have been removed from all Consumer Cooperative Societies,” union head Fahd Al-Kishti tells Reuters, adding that the move is a 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-subsidized staples for Kuwaitis and account for a big part of retail in the country, as well as organizing some educational courses and recreational activities.
In Saudi Arabia, the Arab world's largest economy, a hashtag calling for the boycott of the French supermarket retailer Carrefour was the second most trending by the end of last week, according to French24.
Similar calls for boycott have been issued by groups in Jordan and Qatar.
The Organization of Islamic Cooperation on Friday condemned the brutal murder but also criticized the "justification for blasphemy-based harassment of any religion in the name of freedom of expression".
"Do not answer stupidity with stupidity"
France’s business lobby on Monday urged French companies to remain stoical in the face of boycotts of their products in several Middle Eastern countries. Geoffroy Roux de Bezieux said French principles of secularism and freedom of speech must take precedence over companies’ development plans. He also rejected calls to boycott Middle Eastern products, saying:
“Do not answer stupidity with stupidity.”
Sources: France24, Reuters, Bloomberg.