‘Blasphemy’ case divides France


Paris, France – Some of France‘s high politicians, together with President Emmanuel Macron, have defended a teenage woman who acquired loss of life threats final month after posting a stay broadcast on social media attacking Islam. The put up has reignited a nationwide debate about blasphemy, which has been authorized in France for hundreds of years.

“The law is clear: we have the right to blasphemy, to criticise, to caricature religions,” Macron mentioned in an interview with Le Dauphine Libere newspaper on Wednesday. “The republican order is not a moral order … what is outlawed is to incite hatred and attack dignity.”


The controversy began in late January when a 16-year-old, solely referred to as Mila, began a stay make-up tutorial on her Instagram account.

Recounting a state of affairs that had performed out on French tv, Mila says one commentator began hitting on her in the course of the broadcast. After responding she was a lesbian and that “black and Arabs” weren’t her sort, Mila acquired a slew of insults, with one Muslim commentator calling her a “dirty lesbian”. In response, Mila launched a verbal tirade in opposition to Islam, stating “I hate religion. The Quran is a religion of hate.”


The outburst sparked a divisive debate on social media with supporters utilizing the trending hashtag #JeSuisMila.

Whether she was in search of it or not, one pillar of help for Mila got here from far-right National Rally figurehead Marine Le Pen, who mentioned Mila had “more courage than the entire political class in power for the past 30 years”.

Bruno Retailleau, of the centre-right Les Republicains, praised {the teenager} for talking out in opposition to “this political Islam which is trampling our values”.

Critics, however, blasted the Grenoble-based teenager for her feedback, and a few on social media started sharing her private data, together with the identify of her faculty. After receiving loss of life threats, the general public prosecutor opened an investigation in opposition to Mila’s attackers. She was put beneath police safety and ultimately positioned in one other faculty.

“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, her movements,” mentioned Macron.

Other politicians have been extra cautious with their phrases within the debate. Segolene Royal, a former Socialist occasion candidate for president, mentioned she defended Mila’s “total” freedom to criticise faith, but additionally mentioned {the teenager} may have proven extra “respect, manners and knowledge”.

France’s justice minister, Nicole Belloubet, prompted a stir after saying Mila’s remarks had been “clearly an infringement on freedom of conscience”. After receiving criticism from freedom of speech activists, Belloubet apologised, saying her assertion was “clumsy”.

‘Not about freedom of speech’

Abdallah Zekri, a normal delegate of the French Council for the Muslim religion (CFCM), referred to as the threats in opposition to Mila “wrong”, but additionally mentioned he rejected the argument from those that cited freedom of speech as a cause for defending Mila.


“This isn’t about freedom of speech, it’s about someone being vulgar and insulting,” Zekri instructed Al Jazeera.

Zekri additionally criticised what he referred to as the French authorities’s “hypocrisy” in whom it determined to defend: “I’ve received 17 death threat letters in the last week … who is out there denouncing that?”

The “Mila Affair” is hardly the primary incident to spark debate about blasphemy legal guidelines in France. The nation follows a strict type of secularism referred to as “laicite”, and can be home to the most important Muslim neighborhood in Western Europe. The ensuing friction has led to a collection of incidents through the years, such because the 2007 authorized case in opposition to the satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo for publishing a cartoon of the Prophet Mohammed deemed offensive to many Muslims.

In its ruling, judges sided in favour of the journal, citing French legal guidelines that shield the precise to blasphemy.

When in 2015, two brothers attacked the paper’s headquarters, killing 12 and injuring one other 11, they mentioned it was an act of vengeance for the cartoon.

Anastasia Colosimo, a political scientist, explains that French legislation protects those that criticise faith as an entire in contrast with criticising particular person believers.

“You can say, for example, that Christianity is awful – but you cannot say Christians are all horrible people, because then you are naming people, which is against the law,” Colosimo tol Al Jazeera.

Colosimo additionally expressed help for the present system.

“There is reason for the state to protect any religion,” she mentioned.

“It makes sense to protect a religion when the legitimacy of political power comes from a religious authority like in ancient times, but not in a modern democracy.”