French President Emmanuel Macron told Al-Jazeera Saturday he understood that cartoons of the Muslim Prophet Mohammed could shock people but that violence was unacceptable, days after a Tunisian migrant killed three people in an attack on a church in Nice.
Macron’s interview comes amid widespread protests in Muslim countries and calls to boycott French products over the cartoons that many Muslims find offensive. A row is also escalating with Turkey, whose President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said that the French leader needs to undergo a mental examination.
Macron, who had earlier said Islam faced a “crisis,” told broadcaster Al-Jazeera that his remarks have been distorted to make it appear as though he were supportive of the cartoons, which he said were published by independent media.
“I understand that one can be shocked by cartoons, but I will never accept that violence can be justified. Our freedoms, our rights, I consider it our vocation to protect them,” Macron told the broadcaster, according to an official at the presidency. Al-Jazeera will air the full interview later on Saturday.
Macron’s government has vowed to crack down on Islamist radicals after an assailant beheaded a teacher in Paris earlier this month who had showed the cartoons in a class discussion about freedom of expression.
Al-Jazeera reported that Macron said most victims of terrorism are Muslim, and the acts committed in the name of the religion were a blight on them.