Discomfort with freedom of expression

The right to blasphemy is not supported by a majority of French Muslims. Especially for the young, Islam is more important than the values of the republic. The umbrella organization calls for ignoring Mohammed cartoons.

The “right to blasphemy,” which President Emmanuel Macron wants to see protected in France, arouses unease among many French Muslims of the Muslim faith. This is the result of a survey by the opinion research institute Ifop, commissioned by the satirical newspaper “Charlie Hebdo”. 40 percent of the Muslims surveyed said that they place their religious beliefs above the values of the republic, such as freedom of opinion and conscience. Among Muslims under the age of 25, as many as 74 percent believe that their religion is above the Republic. 69 percent of Muslims rate the emphasis of the Mohammed cartoons as “unnecessary provocation. Only 19 percent of them believe that blasphemous cartoons contribute to freedom of opinion. 70 percent say that it was a mistake on the part of the editorial staff to print them.

The survey results bear witness to the fault lines that run through French society. For a large part of the French, the right to express themselves about religions in a disrespectful manner remains a great good. According to the survey, 59 percent of the French approve of the decision of the satirical newspaper “Charlie Hebdo” to print the controversial Mohammed cartoons in the name of freedom of opinion. One third say that the cartoons are an “unnecessary provocation”.

Disturbances during a minute’s silence

By contrast, there is a broad social consensus in condemning the terrorist attacks. 92 percent of the French condemn the assassination of “Charlie Hebdo,” in which Muslim assassins broke into the newsroom in January 2015 and killed eleven people. Among French people of the Muslim faith, the figure is 82 percent. The attitude of young Muslims between the ages of 15 and 17 is conspicuous; here the percentage is lower. Only 67 percent condemn the attacks. During a minute’s silence for the victims of the terror attacks, many schools in the banlieue were disturbed.

Unlike after the cartoons were first published in February 2006, the umbrella organization of Muslim associations, CFCM, reacted immediately this time and called on Muslims to “ignore” the drawings. In a communiqué, the Islamic Council reiterated its condemnation of all forms of violence. “The terrorism that strikes in the name of our religion is our enemy,” said Muhammad Moussaou, who has been the head of the CFCM since the beginning of the year. The Franco-Moroccan is considered to be much more moderate than his predecessor Ahmet Ogras, a Franco-Turkish who had attracted attention through his connections to the Turkish state leadership and the AKP. “We strongly condemn the magazine’s decision to republish cartoons that show disrespect for our religion and our prophet,” the Turkish Foreign Ministry had announced.