Macron says media coverage insinuating France is racist and Islamophobic amounts to ‘legitimising’ violence

The president says foreign media have ‘failed to understand’ the significance of laicite, or secularism, as a pillar of French policy and society

French President Emmanuel Macron has called a

correspondent to criticise English-language coverage of France’s stance on Islamic extremism after recent attacks, arguing it amounts to “legitimising” violence.


was attacked five years ago, every nation in the world supported us,” Macron told Ben Smith in comments published in the latter’s column on Sunday.

“So when I see, in that context, several newspapers which I believe are from countries that share our values … when I see them legitimising this violence, and saying that the heart of the problem is that France is racist and Islamophobic, then I say the founding principles have been lost.”

In his column about their exchange, Smith said the French president had argued “foreign media failed to understand ‘laicite’,” or secularism, a pillar of French policy and society.

Domestic support for a firm line on the need for immigrants to embrace French values is stronger than ever since the grisly beheading last month of teacher Samuel Paty, who showed his pupils cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed in a lesson on free speech.

While paying tribute to the slain man, Macron defended France’s strict brand of secularism and its long tradition of satire.

“We will not give up cartoons,” he vowed.

He reiterated his point in an interview with

, in which he stated that, despite his respect for different cultures: “I am not going to change our laws because they shock elsewhere.”

“The fight of our generation in Europe will be a combat for our freedoms,” Macron said, adding that he believed they were being “overturned”.

His views have been called into question not just in angry protests across Islamic countries – many of which have called for boycotts of French products – but also by English-language newspapers and even international political allies.

published a piece by a correspondent that was titled “Macron’s war on ‘Islamic separatism’ only divides France further”.

The paper later took down the column, citing factual errors.

Defending France’s stance in a letter to the

in which he denied stigmatising Muslims, Macron wrote: “France – we are attacked for this – is as secular for Muslims as for Christians, Jews, Buddhists and all believers.”

On Friday, the fifth anniversary of an attack by Islamist killers, Macron paid tribute to the victims, as the country was again on high alert following a new wave of ideologically driven violence.

The November 13, 2015 rampage by jihadist suicide bombers and gunmen killed 130 people, wounded hundreds and left deep scars on the nation’s psyche.

Premier Jean Castex laid wreaths at venues across the capital that were hit that night, the first outside the national stadium where the coordinated bloodletting began during a soccer match attended by then president Francois Hollande.

The attackers also targeted the Bataclan concert hall, where some of France’s Muslim leaders later held a separate ceremony, as well as cafes and restaurants – sites that have been under close police watch in the run-up to Friday’s anniversary.

France is back on its highest security alert since September, following a stabbing outside the former offices of the

magazine, the beheading of a history teacher who had shown his class cartoons of the Prophet Mohammad and a fatal attack in a church in Nice.

Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin said France faced a double-edged threat. “From outside, people sent from abroad, and a grave internal threat, people who are amongst us, our enemies within,” he told Franceinfo radio on Friday.

After the Nice attack, he had said France was engaged in a war against Islamist ideology. Macron pledged then to stand firm against assaults on French values and freedom of belief – comments that led to anti-French protests in some Muslim countries.

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