French people managed to escape from plots – Ambassador

French people managed to escape from plots – Ambassador
# 23 January 2015 11:15 (UTC +04:00)

Baku. Malahat Najafova – APA. “Any cartoon published by a newspaper doesn’t express the position of France and doesn’t mean that France is against religions,” French Ambassador to Azerbaijan Pascal Meunier told APA.

The ambassador said that the 1905 law separated church and state in France.

“People can be affiliated with any religion they want or none. It is forbidden to wear ostensible religious accessories in public places. According to the law, calls for hate are crime. France is a tolerant country like Azerbaijan. France's message is the same as Azerbaijan’s, we respect people's faith and support peace and tolerance. In light of recent events, France decided that churches, synagogues and mosques must be protected by the security forces. I think that such a cartoon will irritate communities that regard this person as a sacred one. However, one fact should be conceived that there is a freedom of expression in France,” he noted.

According to the diplomat, France was really shocked by the terror attack on the office of the magazine Charlie Hebdo. French President François Hollande regarded the incident as an "exceptional act of barbarism”, the ambassador said.

“A bit later, several people were taken hostage inside a kosher grocery store in France. The store used to be frequently visited by Jews. 17 innocent people were killed within three days, and not all the victims were of the same religion. For example, the police officer that was mercilessly shot in his head by the terrorists was Muslim. There were also Arabs and Jews among the victims. What caught many by surprise was that people took to the streets to protest the terror attack. These events triggered some kind of resonance throughout the world. On Sunday of that week, people in France held a Republic march that was joined by 3.5 million French all over France. Azerbaijan too stood by France over the incident. President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev sent a letter of condolences to Francois Hollande, and Minister of Finance Samir Sharifov signed the memory book of the embassy. The march was to convey two messages – “Terror No” and “Freedom Yes”, he added.

P. Meunier said this terrorist act means a lot to the French people. “They perceive this act as an attack on freedom of expression, which is one of the most important values in France. In general, the people – Muslims, Jews, or Christians, from any religious background and atheists – that went out to join the Republic march to demonstrate their support to freedom of expression. While it used to have several thousand readers, now after the events up to 7 million copies of the magazines were issued. Afterwards, we learned that the two terror attacks were linked. Al Qaeda claimed responsibility for the Charlie Hebdo attack, and the Islamic State for the kosher store”.

The ambassador noted the French people managed to escape from the plots behind these acts.

“There were two plots there: The first was to frighten and depress the French, and the second to cause mischief among people and communities. French Prime Minister Manuel Valls made a remarkable speech at the parliament. All the MPs stood up to applause him although there are a variety of political streams within the French parliament and it’s quite unusual to see them stand up to applause someone. He touched on three main points in his speech. One of them is that Islam and radicalism shouldn’t be confused. He clearly stated that France is at war with terrorism, jihad and radical Islamism, but neither with Islam nor the Muslims. France will continue to defend its citizens, regardless of their religious affiliation. Furthermore, if requested, France is ready to defend the Muslims all over the world. It has previously done it in Mali. Even the President of Mali was next to French President Francois Hollande during the Republic march. Azerbaijan‘s Deputy Prime Minister Ali Ahmadov also joined the march to show the determination of the Azerbaïdjanese governement to fight against terrorism,” he stressed.

P. Meunier said Islam is the second religion in France, adding that about 6 million Muslims live in the country.

“Islam is an example of peace and tolerance in France, as it is in Azerbaijan. Even Islamic religious leaders in France joined the Republic march. Jews’ being taken hostages at the Kosher supermarket is an indication of anti-Semitism. The French people regard the rise of anti-Semitism as an attack against democracy and republic. The PM’s speech was support to secularism. Secularism is one of the most important factors of unity and tolerance. Then, Charlie Hebdo magazine has published a new cartoon of the Prophet Muhammad, holding a sign saying "I am Charlie" with the words "All is forgiven" above him. It caused new protests in the Muslim world. It has always been a satirical magazine. They cover all events with satire and humor. The magazine even published a cartoon of Pope of the Catholic Church,” the ambassador completed.