In an effort to rectify what he said were misapprehensions about France’s intentions in the Muslim world, French President Emmanuel Macron gave an interview to Arabic television network Al Jazeera that was broadcast on Saturday.
In it, he said France would not back down in the face of violence and would defend the right to free expression, including the publication of cartoons.
But he stressed that did not mean he or his officials supported the cartoons, which Muslims consider blasphemous, or that France was in any way anti-Muslim.
“So I understand and respect that people could be shocked by these cartoons, but I will never accept that one can justify physical violence over these cartoons, and I will always defend the freedom in my country to write, to think, to draw,” Macron said, according to an interview transcript released by his office.
“My role is to calm things down, which is what I’m doing, but at the same time, it’s to protect these rights.”
His interview comes two days after three people were killed in a knife attack at a church in Nice.
Following the attack in Nice, France raised its national terror alert guidance to its highest emergency level and up to 4,000 military personnel were being be deployed to boost security at schools, churches and other places of worship.
On Saturday, a Greek Orthodox priest who was closing a church in Lyon, France, was shot. An investigation in underway.