French President defends controversial teenager’s right to criticise Islam

French President defends controversial teenager's right to criticise Islam
Macron said the 'Affaire Mila' showed that children needed to be better protected against "new forms of hate and harassment online". Photo: AFP
President Emmanuel Macron took the side of freedom of speech over religion as he defended 'the right to blaspheme' in the emotional 'Affaire Mila' debate that has been raging the country for weeks.

French President Emmanuel Macron on Wednesday defended a French teenager who received death threats after an expletive-laden Instagram rant against Islam, saying the right to blaspheme was enshrined in the constitution and that she needs to be protected.

The case of 16-year-old Mila – who has received a slew of death threats for calling Islam “a shitty religion” – has revived debates in France about freedom of speech and again laid bare divisions in the country.

READ ALSO: What is the 'Affaire Mila' and what does it say about France and Islam?

The furore prompted Mila's family to be put under police protection and meant she could no longer attend her school in southeast France.

“We have forgotten that Mila is an adolescent,” Macron told the Dauphiné Libéré regional newspaper.

“We owe her protection at school, in her daily life and when she moves around. The state has assumed its responsibilities.” 

The government announced earlier this month that a solution had been found to allow Mila to continue her schooling, without giving details.

Macron added that children needed to be better protected against “new forms of hate and harassment online”.

And he said: “The law is clear. We have the right to blaspheme, to criticise and to caricature religions.”

READ ALSO Islamophobia in Paris and London – how it differs and why

The government has largely distanced itself from remarks by Justice Minister Nicole Belloubet who declared the death threats received by Mila were “unacceptable in a democracy” but added her remarks about Islam were “clearly an infringement on freedom of conscience”. 

The controversy has come just over five years after a group of French cartoonists from the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo were gunned down by jihadist gunmen after poking fun at the Prophet Mohammed.


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