Malaysia has strongly condemned the republication of cartoons insulting Prophet Muhammad by French magazine Charlie Hebdo.
"We strongly condemn any inflammatory rhetoric and provocative acts that seek to defame the religion of Islam as the world has recently witnessed in the form of populist speeches and publication of blasphemous caricatures depicting the Holy Prophet Muhammad,” said Foreign Minister Hishammuddin Hussein in a statement.
The condemnation came after French President Emmanuel Macron defended the magazine and referred to Islam as “a religion in crisis all over the world," causing outrage among Muslims across the world.
Earlier this month, a French teacher was beheaded by a Chechen origin teenager after he showed the cartoons in a class on freedom of speech. The attacker was shot dead by police.
In its aftermath, France witnessed demonstrations in support of the teacher and defending his right to display the cartoons under the pretext of freedom of speech.
Malaysia also reiterated its commitment to uphold freedom of speech and expression as fundamental human rights as long as these rights are exercised with respect and responsibility.
“In this context, denigrating and tarnishing Islam’s Holy Prophet and to associate Islam with terrorism are certainly beyond the scope of such rights,” the statement added.
The minister said that as a democratic and moderate Islamic country with a multi-ethnic and multi-religious society, Malaysia continues to promote and maintain harmonious relations and peaceful co-existence.
“Malaysia will continue to work with the international community to promote mutual respect among religions and prevent religious extremism at all levels,” he added.
Muslim group calls for boycott
The Malaysian Consultative Council for Islamic Organization called for a boycott of French products in response to Macron's comments.
“We call on all right-minded people of the world to boycott France in every possible way,” Azmi Abdul Hamid, the group's chairman, said in a statement on Wednesday.
“This boycott will send a strong message to France and all of Europe that Muslims will not compromise on their rights to be denied and trampled,” he added.
Several Arab countries, Turkey, Iran, and Pakistan have censured Macron's attitude toward Muslims and Islam, with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan saying the French leader needs "mental treatment".
*Writing by Rhany Chairunissa Rufinaldo from Anadolu Agency's Indonesian language services in Jakarta