#BoycottFrance : A counter-campaign organized in Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Egypt

A few days after its launch, the campaign to boycott French products faces a counter-campaign in Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt.

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The boycott campaign against French products in reaction to Emmanuel Macron's determination to continue publishing cartoons of Prophet Mohammed is unlikely to have the support of all the States of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC). Voices close to power circles in some OIC countries have been opposed to the #BoycottFrance campaign.

For Mohammed Al Issa, secretary general of the Islamic World League and former justice minister in Saudi Arabia, «cartoons are just worthless bubles». «The place of religion will not be affected by madness and the wars waged against it by ignorant satire», he told the Saudi channel Al Arabiya on Monday.

An opinion which is in line with the press release published the same day by the Superior Council of Ulema in the Wahhabi kingdom. «Defaming prophets and messengers will never hurt them, but only serve extremists who want to spread hateful calls among humanitarian communities».

Al Issa believes that the responses against these drawings «were reckless». A way for Al Issa, who is very close to Crown Prince Mohamed Ben Salman, to stand out from calls targeting French products.

A counter-campaign

Al Issa's words are also part of his defense of the French president's speech of October 2 on «Islamist separatism». «Muslims - or those who claim to be - who have given a bad image of our religion through their extremism, their fanaticism or the violence of terrorism. They are in no way representatives of Islam and if we found excuses for them, we would be like them», he told a Saudi media outlet, as reported by French-language daily L'Opinion.

In the past, Al Issa had already praised Macron's speech of April 25, 2019, on «political Islamism». «All Muslims in Europe must respect the constitutions, laws and cultures of the countries in which they live. They must not accept the importation of fatwas and foreign ideas», he insisted during his participation in a congress, organized in September 2019 in Paris, devoted to the same theme.

In Egypt, Al Azhar condemned the publication of the controversial cartoons. However, the official institution has not yet commented on the boycott. A gap that some preachers are trying to fill. Khaled Al Joundi who hosts several programs on a private channel close to Al Sissi spoke numbers to urge Egyptians to distance themselves from the boycott, recalling that «there are 165 French companies» in his country which provide employment to several «Egyptian employees». «French investments amount to $ 5 billion and $ 2.8 billion is the value of trade between Egypt and France», he pleaded.

The same goes for the United Arab Emirates. The mission to denounce the movement was entrusted to personalities close to Abu Dhabi's strongman, Mohamed Ben Zayed. This is the case of his advisor, Abdelkhalek Abdellah, who did not hesitate to accuse the Muslim Brotherhood and Turkey of being behind the campaign against the French economy. Ironically, in recent months, Saudi Arabia and the Emirates have witnessed calls to boycott Turkish goods.

The positions expressed in these countries contrast with the reactions of these same states, in autumn 2006, in favor of the campaign against Danish products, in reaction to the publication by the Jyllands-Posten newspaper of caricatures of the Prophet. 

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