EMMANUEL Macron has said that some communities in France have become “breeding grounds” for terrorism and that children are being raised to “hate French values”.
The comments come after a spate of Islamist attacks in the country in recent weeks, including the beheading of a teacher who used cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed to teach a history class.
Since the attacks, Macron has frequently spoken out to defend free expression and vowed that France would not “give in to any spirit of terror”.
In an open letter to the Financial Times yesterday, Macron wrote: “France has been attacked by Islamist terrorists because it embodies freedom of expression, the right to believe or not to believe and a certain way of life.
“The French people have risen up to say that they will not surrender any of France’s values, its identity, or its imagination.
“But since 2015 it has become clear, and I said this even before I became president, that there are breeding grounds for terrorists in France.
“In certain districts and on the internet, groups linked to radical Islam are teaching hatred of the republic to our children, calling on them to disregard its laws.
“If you do not believe me, read the social media postings of hatred shared in the name of a distorted Islam that resulted in Paty’s death.”
He added that, in some French districts, “small girls aged three or four are wearing a full veil, separated from boys, and, from a very young age, separated from the rest of society, raised in hatred of France’s values.”
The letter was written following a critical column published by the Financial Times this week in which Macron was quoted as having denounced “Islamic separatism”.
Macron responded that he had only ever referred to “Islamist separatism” and that he considered France to be fighting extremism, “never against Islam”.
“Speak to government prefects who are confronted on the ground with hundreds of radicalised individuals, who we fear may, at any moment, take a knife and kill people,” he said.
“We say: ‘Not here in our country!’ And we have every right to say this, as a sovereign nation and a free people.”
SPATE OF ATTACKS
The issue of Islamism in France has been under renewed focus since the murder of history teacher Samuel Paty in a Paris suburb on October 16.
Paty was attacked and beheaded after using cartoons from satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo to teach his students about the importance of free speech.
The magazine was the target of a 2015 Islamist attack in which 12 people were killed after it printed cartoons depicting Mohammed.
Visual depictions of the Prophet are forbidden in some sects of Islam.
Less than two weeks later, three people were killed in a knife attack at the Notre-Dame basilica in the southern French city of Nice.
In September, two employees of a press agency were seriously injured in a knife attack in front of the former Charlie Hebdo offices in Paris.
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Macron’s defence of the right to free expression since Paty’s killing has prompted protests and calls for boycotts of French products in a number of Muslim-majority countries.
Dramatic pictures have showed images and effigies of Macron being burned at large demonstrations in Bangladesh, Pakistan, and Indonesia.