JAKARTA: Indonesian President Joko Widodo on Saturday “strongly condemned” French President Emmanuel Macron’s defence of the right to publish cartoons seen as offensive to Islam.
Widodo, leader of the world’s biggest Muslim-majority nation, also hit out at freedom of expression that “hurts the honour, purity and sacredness of religious values and symbols”.
France has been rocked by multiple deadly attacks in recent weeks suspected to be linked to Islamist extremism, including the latest at a church in Nice Thursday when a knifeman killed three people.
Macron’s comment came after an extremist this month beheaded a teacher in a Paris suburb for showing pupils cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed in a class on free speech.
The French leader’s promise to “not give up cartoons” in defence of freedom of expression sparked a wave of protests across the Muslim world and calls to boycott French goods in several nations.
“First of all, Indonesia strongly condemns the violence in Paris and Nice,” Widodo said Saturday.
“Second, Indonesia also strongly condemns the statement by the French president which has insulted Islam, hurt the feelings of Muslims across the globe and could divide the unity of religious believers… just when the world needs unity to face the Covid-19 pandemic.”
The cartoons at the heart of Macron’s remarks were those published multiple times by French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, whose offices were attacked in 2015 by Islamist extremists.
“Freedom of expression that hurts the honour, purity and sacredness of religious values and symbols cannot be justified and must be stopped,” Widodo said.
“Linking a religion with an act of terrorism is a big mistake. Terrorism is terrorism, terrorists are terrorists. Terrorism has nothing to do with any religion.”
This week, Indonesia’s foreign ministry summoned France’s ambassador over Macron’s remarks, while protests were held in several major cities.