Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Hosseini Khamenei has condemned France and other European governments for supporting the publication of caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad and has rejected their claims of defending freedom of expression.
In a televised speech on Tuesday to mark the prophet’s birthday, Khamenei denounced the “bitter and ugly” official support behind caricatures published by the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo.
“This is not just a downfall of French art, this is the politics of a government that is supporting this wrong act. This is a political figure who explicitly supports this,” Khamenei said, in an apparent reference to French President Emmanuel Macron.
Citing freedom of expression, French and European leaders have backed the right to publish caricatures of the prophet, who is deeply revered by Muslims and whose visual depiction is forbidden in Islam.
The caricatures were cited as the reason behind a deadly attack launched on the magazine’s offices in early 2015 by al-Qaeda-linked fighters.
Last month, French teacher Samuel Paty was murdered in broad daylight near his school in a Paris suburb after he showed the caricatures to his students as part of a discussion on freedom of expression.
Khamenei on Tuesday said the French government should have expressed support and condolences for the murder victim, but allowing the caricatures to be published was wrong.
“They say a person has been killed. Well, express condolences and kindness for him. Why do you explicitly support that vile caricature?”
The supreme leader also supported Muslim anger and protests over the row, saying it shows they are “alive”.
Muslims around the world have also shown their indignation over Macron’s recent comments in which he said Islam is a “religion in crisis“.
Muslim leaders have criticised the remarks, people have protested and a campaign to boycott French goods has been launched in several countries.
In Iran, a public protest was held in front of the French embassy in Tehran’s Neauphle-le-Chateau street on October 28.