Macron urged to avoid 'chicanery' as France is target of boycott campaign

French political establishment urges president to unite nation amid row over blasphemous cartoons and new bill

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President Emmanuel Macron was backed by France’s political establishment yesterday after the country became the target of a campaign by some Muslim nations to boycott its goods.

Mr Macron's refusal to condemn the publication of cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed, which are considered blasphemous under Islam, has been the focus of the protests.

The French Council of the Muslim Faith issued a statement on Monday as the row drew in leaders such as Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan.

"France is a big country," said the council, which acts as an official go-between for the state and observant Muslims.

"Muslim citizens are not persecuted, they freely construct their mosques and the freely practise their religion."

The campaign was launched as France was marking the death of a teacher, Samuel Paty, who showed his class a copy of the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo  this month.

The campaign coincided with a new law addressing the influence of Muslim groups on French community and government organisations.

Former prime minister Alain Juppe expressed the support of centre-right parties for Mr Macron but urged him to address the concerns of those alienated by the measure.

“Avoid the political chicanery and try to unite the nation in a fight which is that of all French women and men," Mr Juppe said.

"Today we must unite, close ranks and support all those who act effectively to fight against this scourge that undermines the republic.”

Mr Juppe said the objectives Mr Macron set out could be achieved through the application of existing laws.

The important thing was to pull back from an escalating culture clash.

“What strikes me today is the excitement that we are seeing all over the place," Mr Juppe said. "You have to keep your cool in all of this."

The newspaper Le Monde  said Mr Erdogan played a central role in the boycott calls and had his own agenda.

Turkey has close financial and political ties to many of the organisations that would face new restraints under the new bill.

"This new offensive by the Turkish leader betrays his frustration with the bill being prepared in Paris on Islamist separatism, which should deprive Turkey of its main lever over Islam in France, that of Turkish imams and Turkish language teachers in public schools," it said in an editorial.

It said Mr Erdogan was involved in a confrontation with Paris over Turkey's presence in the gas-rich seas of the Eastern Mediterranean.

It called for other European countries to form more of a united front.

"The fact remains that France, voluntarily mounted on the frontline in the Eastern Mediterranean, must not remain alone in facing the adventurism of the Turkish president," the editorial said.

"Solidarity with Paris in this new episode, expressly formulated on Sunday by the leaders of the EU institutions, is important.

"Heads of state and government of the member states, in particular of Germany, would be welcome, as would the stronger positions taken by Nato Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg in the face of the excesses of Ankara within the organisation.

The German government on Monday described attacks by Mr Erdogan against Mr Macron as "defamatory" and "unacceptable", and expressed "solidarity" with Paris.

One of Mr Erdogan's closest aides, spokesman Ibrahim Kalin, on Twitter denied that Turkey had failed to condemn Mr Paty's killing, saying it did so in unambiguous terms.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel's spokesman said she strongly condemned Erdogan's fiery remarks about Mr Macron.

"They are defamatory comments that are completely unacceptable, particularly against the backdrop of the horrific murder of the French teacher Samuel Paty by an Islamist fanatic," said the spokesman, Steffen Seibert.

The Netherlands' Prime Minister, Mark Rutte, also added his support for Fance.

France’s Foreign Ministry said the boycott calls were “baseless and should stop immediately, as well as all attacks against our country, which are being pushed by a radical minority”.

Companies affected by the boycott campaign would be supported by the state, said France’s Foreign Trade Minister, Franck Riester.

Mr Riester said officials from his ministry were “in permanent contact with the French companies concerned that are operating in the food industry”.