NEW YORK (Dispatches) -- Facing protests in the Muslim world over his response to terror attacks in France, President Emmanuel Macron phoned a New York Times media columnist to rail against "bias” in the English-language media and accuse some newspapers of "legitimizing this violence”.
In the New York Times interview, Macron claimed media outside France did not understand the concept of the separation of church and state, and condemned newspapers which criticized France’s policy towards Muslims.
Macron has been the subject of protests for his attacks on Islam, after he backed the publication of cartoons purportedly depicting Prophet Muhammad (SAWA) and claimed in a speech that Islam "is in crisis all over the world today”. Protesters in some countries have called for a boycott of French products.
Speaking to the New York Times, Macron reiterated his anger at some of the English-language media’s response to recent attacks in France.
"So when I see, in that context, several newspapers which I believe are from countries that share our values – journalists who write in a country that is the heir to the Enlightenment and the French Revolution – when I see them legitimizing this violence, and saying that the heart of the problem is that France is racist and Islamophobic, then I say the founding principles have been lost.”
Macron, France’s president since 2017, could be pitted against far-right politician Marine Le Pen at the polls in 2022.
He said foreign media did not understand the concept of "laïcité” – secularism, or the separation between church and state.
At the start of October, Macron announced a series of measures to combat "radical Islamism”, including placing greater control over mosques and the requirement that imams are trained and certified in France. Some English-language newspapers have been critical of Macron.
On Thursday, Amnesty International criticized the president and his government, saying they had "doubled down on their perpetual smear campaign against French Muslims, and launched their own attack on freedom of expression”.
In a report, the charity pointed to the conviction in 2019 of two men who burned an effigy of Macron at a protest, and suggested Muslims did not enjoy the same freedoms as others in France.
"While the right to express opinion or views that may be perceived as offending religious beliefs is strenuously defended,” the report said, "Muslims’ freedoms of expression and religion usually receive scant attention in France under the disguise of Republican universalism.
"In the name of secularism, or laïcité, Muslims in France cannot wear religious symbols or dress in schools or in public sector jobs.”