Emmanuel Macron has been sharply criticised by the Deputy General Guide of the Muslim Brotherhood, Ibrahim Munir, after the French president announced a law against religious "separatism" aimed at freeing Islam in France from "foreign influences". The 42-year-old, who faces a tough bid for re-election against stiff opposition from the far-right, sparked controversy with remarks that appeared to condemn Islam and Muslims in general.
"Islam is a religion that is in crisis all over the world today, we are not just seeing this in our country," the French president said over the weekend in a speech introducing a new bill to strengthen France's state ideology of militant secularism, known as Laicite.
With the French Republic struggling to contain the spread of the coronavirus pandemic, Macron's comments were widely condemned over their timing and divisive message. In his condemnation of Macron, Munir, who expressed dismay that "such utterances would come from the lips of a President of France," accused Macron of mischaracterising the Muslim Brotherhood and turning his back on the values and principals of the French Revolution.
"The French Revolution has not served the inheritors of the Revolution" said Munir in his letter to Macron, a copy of which was obtained by MEMO, pointing out that the president's remark had "blatantly contradicted the thought of its philosophers" who had "ignited the passion of people and their longing for humanity's freedom, equality and their right to articulate their beliefs."
READ: Is Macron really working to de-radicalise Islam?
Dismissing Macron's comments, which appeared to single out the Muslim Brotherhood for condemnation, Munir added: "They [the Brotherhood] resist the excesses of regimes that deliberately seek to force them to abandon their faith and distort their image through illegal and inhuman acts."
"We affirm the truth which the whole world knows; that the Muslim Brotherhood sincerely adhere to their Islamic thought and covenants," insisted Munir. "They uphold the social responsibilities and rights of the countries of their abode. They respect their laws; knowing that this is the basis of their presence therein. They fulfil their duties and protect the security of their countries."
Critics of the anti-separatism bill, particularly members of France's roughly six-million-strong Muslim community — Western Europe's largest— worry it will deepen anti-Muslim sentiment they say has been on the rise in recent years.
It has also been suggested that the bill is politically motivated ahead of France's 2022 elections, while others — notably the leading opposition far-right National Rally party — have complained that the bill does not go far enough.