Chair IMPIC writes to President Macron of France amidst caricatures controversy

Dear President Macron,

I write to you at what is already a difficult enough time for people throughout our world, though particularly for someone carrying the responsibility of the wellbeing of a nation and its citizens like yourself.  

I pray that God aids and assists you and all of our leaders, and swiftly brings us respite from this virus which brought chaos in all of our societies.

One type of chaos, however, that I am unable to agree with you on, Mr President, is your characterization of my faith – the faith of over 1.8 billion people around the world – as a faith in crisis. Despite several centuries of Western colonial adventures in Muslim lands in recent history, neither Islam nor the Muslims can fairly be characterized as being in crisis. For you to suggest otherwise in such sweeping terms is dehumanizing towards Muslims around the globe, but not least the six million Muslim citizens of the Republic you lead.

Perhaps you intended to characterize Islamist extremism as being in chaos rather than the religion of over 
1.8 billion Muslims as being in chaos. If this were the case, I would have to agree with you: Islamism is a sociopathy that by its very definition is chaotic; finding a natural home where chaos already exists and bringing chaos where there previously was harmony. Yet your failure to make this distinction has alienated your strongest allies in the battle against Islamism: Muslims in France and around Europe and the world.

There is no blame that can justly be apportioned to Muslims as a collective for the barbaric and tragic murder of Samuel Paty, any more than the French people as a collective were to blame for the atrocities that took place under Régime de Vichy. 

Let me be clear: I wholeheartedly condemn this evil deed and stand with the family of Mr Paty and the French nation against it. There is absolutely no defence or justification in Islam for such deplorable, extrajudicial violence and murder committed by homicidal maniacs who pervert Islam.

Islam does not teach its adherents to respond in repulsive way to mockery and insult. Prophet Muhammad – peace be upon him – is known by Muslims as the “Mercy to all worlds”. There are many recorded incidents in his life in which he was mocked, defamed, abused and even physically attacked. Despite the horrendous abuse Prophet Muhammad – peace be upon him – responded with patience, forgiveness, and mercy.

Perhaps it was this trauma, Mr President, that led you to fail to make the distinction between defending the central European value of freedom of speech in general terms and choosing to defend immature, provocative and demeaning caricatures purporting to portray the Prophet Muhammad – peace be upon him –  specifically. It was your failure to make this distinction that has been most damaging, leading to the chasm between France and Muslim majority countries that has opened in recent weeks, most visibly in the vocal boycotts of French goods we have seen recently.

It is in this spirit of solidarity and partnership, Mr. President, that I am duty bound to tell you that your recent actions and proposed course of action distances you from the defeat of Islamism and justice for Mr. Paty.

Mr President, it is imperative that distinction is made between immature, provocative and demeaning caricatures that insult a whole religious community and between freedom of speech. 

I support freedom of speech but with responsibility. I support freedom of speech that is constructive and serves a useful role to unite communities instead of divide. The continuous demeaning and disrespecting of religious symbols of a particular community will only upset and anger the whole community. 

In France there is legislation that prohibits destroying, damaging, or using the national flag in degrading manners and which can lead to a fine of €1,500 euros. Freedom of speech should follow the same standard, whether it is disrespecting the national symbol of France or disrespecting religious symbols of its 6 Million French citizens and 1,8 Billion Muslims globally. 

Mr President, it is imperative that you make the distinction between the faith of Islam and Islamism, which is a political ideology based upon a perversion of Muslim theology. You must recognise that Muslims – both scholars and lay people – are your allies in this cause, especially as Muslims are globally more likely to be a victim of Islamist violence than French citizens or other Europeans. Any attempts to tackle Islamism formulated without the input, lived experiences and expertise of Muslims can only fail.  

Mr President, I earlier referred to Islamism as “finding a natural home where chaos already exists”. A key component of any attempts to tackle Islamism and terrorism must seek to redress the structural issues that act as key indicators of radicalisation. As long as poverty, urban stagnation and structural racism continue to plague French society, no legislative, law enforcement or theological response to Islamism can ever be truly successful. 

I also appeal to your Government to stop the encouragement and endorsement of publishing demeaning depictions of Prophet Muhammad – peace be upon him – or other religious symbols that are an insult and mockery of a whole religious community. Instead, the community – artists, politicians, and Muslims – should advance open debate, mutual understanding, and unite on a common, noble cause against the evil of Islamist extremism.

I also feel that clarifications are required regarding some of your recent statements. Muslims throughout the globe were hurt by your failure to make the distinctions I have already mentioned. I urge you to be brave and correct the record. Let it be known that Muslims stand with France in the face of the Islamist threat and that France stands with her Muslim citizens in the spirit of the Republic.

Yours Sincerely,

Shaykh Dr Umar Al-Qadri

Chair Irish Muslim Peace & Integration Council

Chief Imam, slamic Centre Ireland

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