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British daily investigating claims in Macron’s letter

Reader complained French president’s letter published in daily contained inflammatory statements about Muslims

Shweta Desai   | 04.03.2021
British daily investigating claims in Macron’s letter

PARIS

British daily The Financial Times has opened an investigation into a complaint that French President Emmanuel Macron’s letter published by the newspaper contained factual inaccuracies and inflammatory statements about Muslims.

A report by London-based online news the Middle East Eye has revealed that FT’s Editorial Complaints Commissioner and lawyer Greg Callus is investigating Macron’s claims in a letter published Nov. 4, 2020.

In the letter, Macron had said that in parts of France “small girls aged three or four” wore the veil and were “raised in hatred of France’s values.”

In response to an opinion piece that was published briefly by the FT on Nov. 2 before being pulled down for “factual inaccuracies”, Macron penned a letter titled “France is against ‘Islamist separatism’ — never Islam.”

Macron said the opinion piece misquoted him by "substituting 'Islamic separatism'— a term he has never used — for “Islamist separatism,” which is "a reality in my country."

He claimed that since 2015, it has become clear “there are breeding grounds for terrorists in France. In certain districts and on the internet, groups linked to radical Islam are teaching hatred of the republic to our children, calling on them to disregard its laws. That is what I called “separatism” in one of my speeches.”

Objecting to these claims as fake news, a Muslim reader from a suburb in Paris, complained to the FT requesting evidence to justify Macron’s hate-spreading letter.

Last year, Macron’s speech claiming the religion of Islam was in “crisis” sparked weeks long protests in Muslim dominated countries. In December, his government unveiled a controversial legislation to combat what it terms “Islamist separatism.”

The come in the aftermath of a spate of terror attacks in France this fall which claimed four lives, including that of a teacher.

Muslims living in France have voiced concern that they are being unfairly targeted after the attacks with multiple mosques being closed and dozens of investigations opened against prominent members of the community.

Initially, FT had defended the publication in the name of freedom of expression and strong public interest.

The MEE report said, executive editor Suzanne Blumsom wrote to the complainant: “There were no significant inaccuracies, misleading statements or distortions in Emmanuel Macron's letter.”

The complaint was later passed on to Callus after the issue remained unresolved. Nearly 3 months after the matter was raised, Callus recently assured the reader of publishing an adjudication after probing Macron’s claims and making it publicly available on FT’s website.

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