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France tightens security amid fallout from beheading of teacher and Macron’s response

Members of a Muslim student group in Pakistan hold a depiction of the French flag with the words "Down with France."
Members of a Muslim student group in Peshawar, Pakistan, hold a depiction of the French flag with the words “Down with France.”
(Muhammad Sajjad / Associated Press)

France is increasing security at religious sites as its interior minister said Tuesday that the country faces a “very high” risk of terrorist threats, amid growing geopolitical tensions after the beheading of a teacher who showed his class caricatures of the prophet Muhammad.

French diplomats are trying to quell anger in Turkey and Arab nations amid anti-French protests and calls for boycotts of French goods in response to President Emmanuel Macron’s firm stance against Islamism after the Oct. 16 beheading. European allies have supported Macron, while Muslim-majority countries are angered by his defense of cartoons they consider sacrilegious.

France’s national police have called for increased security at religious sites around the upcoming Christian All Saints’ Day holiday this weekend, particularly noting online threats from extremists against Christians and moderate French Muslims.

Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin said on France Inter radio that the terrorist threat remained “very high, because we have a lot of enemies from within and outside the country.”

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He reiterated plans to try to disband Muslim groups seen as peddling dangerously radical views or with too much foreign financing. He accused Turkey and Pakistan in particular of “meddling in France’s internal business.”

“There is a battle against an Islamist ideology. We must not back down,” he said. But he insisted that “the Muslim faith has all its place in the republic.”

French authorities say a suspect shot dead by police after the gruesome beheading of a history teacher near Paris was an 18-year-old Chechen.

Some members of France’s largely moderate Muslim community are calling for calm and defending the freedom of expression that the beheaded teacher was seeking to demonstrate.

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The cartoons caricaturing Muhammad deeply upset many Muslims around the world. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has led the charge against France, questioning Macron’s mental state. France recalled its ambassador to Turkey for consultations, a first in French-Turkish diplomatic relations.

Tensions between the two countries have mounted in recent months over Turkish actions in Syria, Libya and the Caucasus region of Nagorno-Karabakh. But this new spat has quickly spread to other countries in Europe and the Muslim world.

Anti-French protests have been held in Muslim-majority territories from Bangladesh to the Gaza Strip. Kuwaiti stores pulled French yogurt and bottles of sparkling water from their shelves. Qatar University canceled a French culture week. Pakistan’s parliament passed a resolution condemning the publication of cartoons of the prophet.

European Union officials warn that Turkey’s stance could further damage its relations with key trading partners and its long-stalled efforts to join the bloc.

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“A boycott will only move Turkey even further away from the EU,” European Commission spokesman Balazs Ujvari said Tuesday, insisting that the nation needs to respect the terms of its trade deal on goods with the EU.


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