The French president said he respected Muslims who were shocked by cartoons of the Prophet Mohammad (PBUH). However, Emmanuel Macron said that was no excuse for violence.
Macron officials ramped up security after a knife attack in a French church that killed three people this week.
An assailant beheaded a woman and killed two other people in a church in Nice on Thursday. This was the second deadly knife attack in two weeks with a suspected Islamist motive.
The suspected assailant, a 21-year-old from Tunisia, was shot by police and is now in critical condition in a hospital.
Police said on Saturday that another person was taken into custody in connection with the attack. That person joins three others already in custody on suspicion of contacts with the attacker.
Macron has deployed thousands of soldiers to protect sites such as places of worship and schools. Meanwhile, ministers have warned that other attacks could take place.
The Nice attack came amid growing Muslim anger across the world over the cartoons depicting the Prophet.
On Oct. 16, Samuel Paty, a school teacher in a Paris suburb, was beheaded by an 18-year-old Chechen. He was incensed by the teacher showing a cartoon of the Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) in class during a civics lesson.
Protesters have denounced France in street rallies in several Muslim-majority countries, and some have called for boycotts of French goods.
France is on edge in anticipation of more possible attacks. On Saturday, a Greek Orthodox priest was shot and wounded in his church in the south-eastern city of Lyon. But officials gave no indication that terrorism was suspected.
Macron to Muslims: I hear your anger, but won’t accept violence
French President Macron is now trying to rectify what he said were misapprehensions about France’s intentions in the Muslim world. He gave an interview to Al Jazeera recently.
He said France would not back down in the face of violence. Macron said France would defend the right to free expression, including the publication of cartoons.
However, he stressed that did not mean he or his officials supported the cartoons, which Muslims consider blasphemous. Macron said France was not in any way anti-Muslim.
“So I understand and respect that people could be shocked by these cartoons. But I will never accept that one can justify physical violence over these cartoons. I will always defend the freedom in my country to write, to think, to draw,” Macron said.
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“My role is to calm things down, which is what I’m doing, but at the same time, it’s to protect these rights.”
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