Macron decries ‘Islamist separatism’, defends right to blaspheme

French president, who proposes law against ‘Islamist separatism’, defends free speech amid Charlie Hebdo attack trial.

French President Emmanuel Macron said freedom of expression includes the right to blaspheme [File: Sebastien Bozon/Pool/AFP]

French President Emmanuel Macron criticised what he called “Islamist separatism” in his country and those who seek French citizenship without accepting France’s “right to commit blasphemy”.

Macron on Friday defended satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo, which published caricatures of Prophet Muhammad that helped inspire two French-born men to mount a deadly January 2015 attack on the paper’s newsroom. 

The weekly republished the images this week as the trial began of 14 people over the attacks on Charlie Hebdo and on a kosher supermarket.

Speaking at a ceremony on Friday celebrating France’s democratic history and naturalising new citizens, the French president said: “You don’t choose one part of France. You choose France … The Republic will never allow any separatist adventure.”

Freedom in France, Macron said, includes: “The freedom to believe or not to believe. But this is inseparable from the freedom of expression up to the right to blasphemy.”

Noting the trial that opened on Wednesday, he said, “To be French is to defend the right to make people laugh, to criticise, to mock, to caricature.”

The 2015 attacks killed 17 people and marked the beginning of a wave of violence by the ISIL (ISIS) armed group in Europe. 

Macron’s centrist government has promised a law in the coming months against “Islamist separatism” but it is not yet clear exactly what it would police.

Some critics fear it could unfairly stigmatise France’s Muslim population, the largest in Western Europe.

Source: AP