Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on Wednesday called the French president’s defence of cartoons depicting the Prophet Mohammed a “stupid act” and an “insult” to those who voted for him.
“Ask your president why he supports insulting God’s messenger in the name of freedom of expression. Does freedom of expression mean insulting, especially a sacred personage?” Khamenei said in a message to “French youth” on his official website.
“Isn’t this stupid act an insult to the reason of the people who elected him?” he added.
French President Emmanuel Macron has strongly defended secular values and the right to mock religion following the murder of a French schoolteacher who had shown his class cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed
Macron’s comments triggered protests and a call to boycott French goods in some Muslim-majority countries.
“The next question to ask is, ‘why is it a crime to raise doubts about the holocaust?'” Khamenei said.
“Why should anyone who writes about such doubts be imprisoned, while insulting the Prophet, peace be upon him, is allowed?”
Khamenei’s remarks follow a chorus of criticism directed at Macron by top Iranian officials, including President Hassan Rouhani, who warned on Wednesday that insulting the prophet is “immoral” and may encourage “violence and bloodshed”.
Rouhani said “the West should understand that… insulting the Prophet is insulting all Muslims, all prophets, all human values, and trampling ethics.”
“Every single European is in debt to the prophet, as he was the teacher of humanity,” he added.
‘Shame on you, Macron’
Hundreds of protesters demonstrated near France’s embassy in Tehran on Wednesday to condemn Macron’s remarks.
Some protesters held banners reading, “shame on you Macron”, while others burned pictures of the French leader.
Demonstrator Zeynab Yeganeh told AFP that Macron has shown his “wretchedness” by defending the cartoons, and said Europeans are being “oppressed” as the truth of Islam is being hidden from them by their leaders.
Mohammad Taherzadeh, a government employee who also joined the rally, said: “We are here to tell Macron that we respect all religions and that he has no right to insult our Prophet.”
On Tuesday, a senior French diplomat in Iran was summoned to protest the “unacceptable behaviour of the French authorities”.
The parliamentary bloc of the powerful Lebanese group Hezbollah, which is close to Iran, on Wednesday also issued a statement against insults targeting the Prophet Mohammed.
It slammed the “moral and ethical bankruptcy that groups, states and leaders are suffering from today”, adding that intentionally ridiculing the prophet revealed “malicious and hostile intentions”.
The statement did not mention France or Macron, but accused the states and groups in question of “abusing freedom of expression… by suppressing others and preventing them from expressing their convictions and beliefs”.
(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)