Emmanuel Macron blasted after Catholic Church comments: ‘Little priest’

Emmanuel Macron 'wants to lead EU project' says Allen

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French President Emmanuel Macron turns 44 today, but his birthday is unlikely to soften the combative nature of the debate in France ahead of the country’s election next year. He faces potentially stiff competition from right-wing figures such as Valérie Pécresse, who was projected to win a second round of voting in an Elabe survey last week. Far-right Eric Zemmour, who has called for non-French names to be banned, has also risen in prominence while the National Rally leader Marine Le Pen also contests another election. One issue that could feature heavily is religion – Mr Macron has been criticised by the Muslim community in France, but Christianity is also a subject which has seen the President come under scrutiny.

In 2018, Mr Macron was criticised after he said that he wanted to repair church-state ties, leading to accusations that he was threatening France’s tradition of secularism.

Mr Macron told a meeting of bishops that he hoped to repair relations with the Church through a “dialogue of truth”.

He added: “A president of the French republic, who takes no interest in the Church and its Catholics, would be failing in his duty.”

But the French President came under fire for this.

Former socialist Prime Minister Manuel Valls, who backed Mr Macron for president in 2017, tweeted that “secularism is France”.

Socialist Olivier Faure added: “Secularism is the jewel in our crown. That is what a president of the republic should be defending.”

French President Emmanuel Macron turns 44 today, but his birthday is unlikely to soften the combative nature of the debate in France ahead of the country’s election next year.

He faces potentially stiff competition from right-wing figures such as Valérie Pécresse, who was projected to win a second round of voting in an Elabe survey last week.

Far-right Eric Zemmour, who has called for non-French names to be banned, has also risen in prominence while the National Rally leader Marine Le Pen also contests another election.

One issue that could feature heavily is religion – Mr Macron has been criticised by the Muslim community in France, but Christianity is also a subject which has seen the President come under scrutiny.

Prominent leftist Jean-Luc Melenchon also tweeted: “Macron in full-on metaphysical delirium. Outrageous. One expects a president, one gets a little priest.”

Then Interior Minister in Paris, Gérard Collomb, defended Mr Macron’s comments at the time.

He said: “What he is saying is that for human beings, there is not only the material world but also the search for absolute values, for spirituality, to find meaning in life.

“It is perhaps a new tone but in no way does it break with the great tradition of secularism.”

Mr Macron has a strong relationship with Catholicism – he grew up in a non-religious family but asked to be baptised when he was 12 years old.

In contrast to the accusations of threatening secularism in France, Mr Macron has also been criticised by some for his comments defending it, as seen in 2020.

After a string of attacks in France blamed on radical Islamists, Mr Macron came under fire for his stance on Islam.

His combative rhetoric towards radical Islam was called into question, not just in angry protests in Islamic countries but by English language newspapers and even international political allies.

A 2020 column in the New York Times read: “Is France fuelling Muslim terrorism by trying to prevent it?”

The Washington Post newspaper advised him to fight racism rather than try to “reform Islam”.

Mr Macron also received criticism in October 2020 when he announced a law against “Islamist separatism” aimed at freeing Islam in France from “foreign influences”.

The measures include placing mosques under greater control and requiring that imams are trained and certified in France.

The aim would be to “liberate French Islam from foreign influences”, Mr Macron said.

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Islamic organisations that receive funding from the French state have to sign a “secular charter” under the rules.

Figures from from across the Muslim world took aim at the French President for his comments.

In Bangladesh, an estimated 40,000 people took part in an anti-France rally in the capital, Dhaka, burning an effigy of Mr Macron and calling for a boycott of French products.

Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan accused Mr Macron of being divisive and encouraging Islamophobia.

He added: “This is a time when President Macron could have put healing touch and denied space to extremists rather than creating further polarisation and marginalisation that inevitably leads to radicalisation.

“By attacking Islam, clearly without having any understanding of it, President Macron has attacked and hurt the sentiments of millions of Muslims in Europe and across the world.”

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