Emmanuel Macron has defended the French teenager who received death threats after calling Islam a ‘s**t religion’ saying: ‘We have the right to blaspheme.’
The French president spoke out as 16-year-old Mila, from near Lyon, was moved to a new school to ‘guarantee her safety.’
Mr Macron said: ‘The law is clear – we have the right to blaspheme, to criticise, to caricature religions.
‘The republican order is not a moral order … what is outlawed is to incite hatred and attack dignity.’
He added an interview with Le Dauphine Libere newspaper: ‘In this debate we have lost sight of the fact that Mila is an adolescent. We owe her protection at school, in her daily life, in her movements.’
Mr Macron said that by finding her a new school, where she began lessons on Monday, ‘the state has fulfilled its responsibilities’.
He said children needed to be ‘better protected’ against ‘new forms of hatred and harassment online that can be destructive’.
Mila criticised Islam after she made a live broadcast on her Instagram account last month in which she talked openly about her sexuality.
A Muslim left a comment saying she was a ‘dirty lesbian’ and a ‘dirty w***e’.
Mila hit back in an Instagram video saying the Koran was ‘full of hate’ and calling Islam a ‘s**t religion’.
She went on: ‘I am not racist, not at all. You cannot be racist towards a religion. I said what I thought, you will not make me regret it.
‘There are still people who will get excited, I clearly don’t give a damn, I say what I want, what I think.’
In a subsequent television appearance she stood by her comments, saying: ‘I absolutely do not regret what I said, it was really what I thought.’
Defending her right to ‘blaspheme’, she said: ‘I don’t have to hide for this reason. I don’t have to stop living for this.
‘But I would still like to say that in some way I am a little bit sorry towards the people who I might have hurt who practise their religion in peace, and I never wanted to target human beings,’ she said.
‘I simply wanted to… blaspheme… I wanted to talk about a religion, and say what I thought about it, and that’s all.’
After her outburst the teenager was subjected to a barrage of further abuse, including threats to rape and kill her.
France’s public prosecutor has launched an investigation into ‘death threats, threats to commit a crime and harassment’ against Mila but has also opened an inquiry into whether she ‘provoked religious hatred’ in her diatribe.
Abdallah Zekri, general delegate of the French Council for the Muslim Faith (CFCM), told French radio: ‘This girl knows exactly what she has done. They who sow, reap.’ Zekri added that the teenager’s comments were not covered by freedom of expression but were insulting and provocative.
But Mohammed Moussaoui, the new head of the CFCM, later conceded that criticism of Islam had to be accepted and no remarks justified death threats.
He said: ‘We have to accept all the debates and refuse all violence.’
Mila started at her new school on Monday after France’s education ministry stepped in to find a ‘positive solution’.
The teenager had been taken out of her previous educational establishment in Lyon after receiving a barrage of abuse over her Instagram video.
‘We have found her a solution which guarantees her safety and allows her to continue her life and education,’ education minister Gabriel Attal told LCI television.
‘It’s a positive solution, it was very difficult for her not to return to school.’
Asked if the move was ‘geographically feasible’, the minister said he would not provide details about the school’s location.
Secularism is a zealously guarded ideal in France but left-wing politicians and elites have been accused of failing to stand up for the teenager.
‘It is the left that traditionally defends secularism in this country. It saddens me that it has not done so in this case,’ her lawyer Richard Malka told The Times.
‘No human rights association has protested or expressed solidarity with the girl whose life has suddenly been plunged into hiding.’