FRENCH President Emmanuel Macron has added his voice to the thousands who have spoken out in defence of a schoolgirl forced into hiding after she criticised Islam.
According to the Guardian Macron, in defending the girl identified only as “Mila”, insisted that blasphemy:
Is no crime. The law is clear: we have the right to blaspheme, to criticise, to caricature religions …what is outlawed is to incite hatred and attack dignity.
The case has sparked a furious public debate in France, a strictly secular republic with a large Muslim population.
In this debate we have lost sight of the fact that Mila is an adolescent. We owe her protection at school, in her daily life, in her movements.
The President added that in finding a new school for Mila, “the state has fulfilled its responsibilities” and that children needed to be “better protected” against:
New forms of hatred and harassment online that can be destructive.
Mila, 16, from near Lyon, became a cause célèbre in January after she made a live broadcast on her Instagram account in which she spoke about being gay. A Muslim commentator responded she was a “dirty lesbian” and a “dirty whore”. She responded by posting a video diatribe against Islam.
Her outburst sparked death threats and social media users posted her personal information online, including where she was attending school. The public prosecutor has opened an investigation for “death threats, threats to commit a crime and harassment” against her attackers and a separate inquiry into whether she had “provoked religious hatred”, which is punishable by French law.
Abdallah Zekri, general delegate of the French Council for the Muslim Faith (CFCM), told French radio:
This girl knows exactly what she has done … they who sow, reap.
Zekri added that the teenager’s comments were not covered by freedom of expression but were insulting and provocative.
But Mohammed Moussaoui, the new head of the CFCM, said criticism of Islam had to be accepted and no remarks justified death threats.
We have to accept all the debates and refuse all violence.
Mila has appeared on French television to say she did not regret the video and to defend the right to blaspheme. She also apologised to those who practise their religion “in peace”.
Far-right leader Marine Le Pen also defended the teenager, saying what she said:
May be considered vulgar, but we cannot accept that, in 21st century France, some condemn her to death.