Calls for a boycott of French products are emerging throughout the Arab and Muslim world over the use of cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed.
Kuwait’s retail co-ops have pulled French products in boycott over the use of cartoons of the Prophet Mohammad in a French school class on freedom of expression whose teacher was then beheaded by an Islamist.
In Saudi Arabia, the Arab world’s largest economy, a hashtag calling for the boycott of French supermarket retailer Carrefour was the second most trending on Sunday.
France’s foreign affairs ministry said that in recent days there had been calls to boycott French products, notably food products, in several Middle Eastern countries as well as calls for demonstrations against France over the cartoons.
Muslims see any depiction of the Prophet as blasphemous.
“These calls for boycott are baseless and should stop immediately, as well as all attacks against our country, which are being pushed by a radical minority,” the ministry said in a statement on Sunday.
The ministry also called on authorities to speak out against such boycott actions in order to help French companies and ensure the safety of French citizens.
In Kuwait, the non-governmental Union of Consumer Co-operative Societies, which groups more than 70 establishments, issued the boycott directive on 23 October. By Sunday, many businesses had cleared their shelves of items such as hair and beauty products made by French companies.
Union head Fahd Al-Kishti told Reuters that all French products had been removed from all the co-ops in response to “repeated insults” against the Prophet and had been taken independently of Kuwait’s government.
The co-ops, some the size of hypermarkets, carry government-subsidised staples and account for a big part of retail in Kuwait, as well as organising some educational courses and recreational activities.
Kuwait’s foreign minister, who met the French ambassador on Sunday, condemned the 16 October killing as a horrendous crime but stressed the need to avoid insulting religion in official and political remarks that “inflame hatred, enmity and racism”, the ministry tweeted.
Kuwait’s imports from France stood at $1.16 billion in 2019, according to Kuwait’s Central Statistics bureau.
After a Danish paper first published the cartoons in 2005, protests and boycotts on Danish goods swept the Islamic world.
The beheading in a Paris suburb carried echoes of the Islamist attack in 2015 on the offices of satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo after it republished the cartoons.
France recalled its ambassador to Turkey on Saturday after Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said his counterpart Emmanuel Macron, who this month declared war on “Islamist separatism”, needed mental help over his attitude towards Muslims.