ISLAMABAD: France on Sunday objected to a statement by Minister for Human Rights Shireen Mazari equating President Emmanuel Macron’s new measures to counter “Islamist separatism” in France with the anti-semitic policies of Nazi Germany, however, the issue was later resolved when both sides held dialogue after a false claim in the cited news article came to light.
Earlier this week, Macron issued a “charter of republican values”, detailing a series of steps aimed at purging France of what he declared as “radical Islam”. One of the measures made it necessary for school-going children to wear an identification number that would be used to ensure they are attending school.
Mazari, who apparently understood that the identification number would be issued exclusively to Muslim children, censured the move, saying through the new measures, “Macron is doing to Muslims what the Nazis did to the Jews” in Nazi Germany.
Macron is doing to Muslims what the Nazis did to the Jews – Muslim children will get ID numbers (other children won’t) just as Jews were forced to wear the yellow star on their clothing for identification. https://t.co/YdP2L3flJS
— Shireen Mazari (@ShireenMazari1) November 21, 2020
“Muslim children will get ID numbers (other children won’t) just as Jews were forced to wear the yellow star on their clothing for identification,” she added linking to an online article.
Responding to the tweet, the French Ministry of Europe and Foreign Affairs on Sunday issued a statement, calling the minister’s remark “insulting […] blatant lies, loaded with an ideology of hatred and violence.”
— France in Pakistan (@FranceinPak) November 22, 2020
The rather unceremonious statement asked Pakistan to “return to the path of dialogue based on respect.”
The publication later amended the article and issued a clarification stating that the law mentioned in the article applies to all children in France, not specifically Muslim children.
The embassy also sent a series of tweets to point out the mistakes in the article.
In response to the French envoy’s message, Mazari deleted her tweet and issued a clarification on Twitter and admitted her mistake. “The French Envoy to Pak sent me the following message and as the article I had cited has been corrected by the relevant publication, I have also deleted my tweet on the same,” she tweeted.
Responding to the minister’s tweet, the French Embassy thanked Mazari for the clarification and apology, and wrote that “freedom of expression and debates are essential in democracies, based on verified and accurate facts.”
Macron on Wednesday unveiled the bill and asked Muslim leaders in France to agree to its instructions as part of a broad clampdown on so-called “Islamic extremism”. He gave the French Council of the Muslim Faith 15 days to work with the interior ministry.
The bill includes measures which include: restrictions on home-schooling and harsher punishments for those who intimidate public officials on religious grounds; giving children an identification number under the law that would be used to ensure they are attending school and a ban on sharing the personal information of a person in a way that allows them to be located by people who want to harm them.
Parents who break the law could face up to six months in jail as well as large fines, it said.
The draft law — which Macron said will strengthen a 1905 law separating Church and state in France — will be discussed by the French cabinet on December 9.
The new bill comes on the heels of three separate instances of terrorism following the publication of blasphemous caricatures by Charlie Hebdo, a French satirical weekly best known for vulgar irreverence, and Macron’s insistence on defending the act in the name of freedom of expression.
Following the publication of these cartoons and Macron’s defense of it, relations between France and the Muslim world grew sour as tens of thousands of Muslims in several countries joined protests, burned effigies of Macron, chanted anti-French slogans and called for a boycott of French goods.
Subsequently, in an interview with Al-Jazeera earlier this month, Macron sought to renew ties with the Muslim world.
“I have never said that,” Macron said, explaining that some false translations of his words in the media showed him to support the [blasphemous] cartoons. “Those are lies.”
“I understand and respect that people can be shocked by these cartoons,” he had said. “But I will never accept that someone can justify the use of physical violence because of these cartoons. And I will always defend freedom of speech in my country, of thought, of drawing.”
The interview set off a storm on social media, as many argued the Qatari station erred by giving space to the French President, whom they said failed to apologise for offending Muslims.
But for others, Macron’s appearance on Al-Jazeera was hailed as a success of the protest and boycott campaigns, which have forced the French president to address Muslims through an Arabic-speaking channel.