KUWAIT: French products are removed from shelves of a supermarket in Salmiya on Friday in protest against cartoons depicting Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) published in French media. – Photo by Yasser Al-Zayyat

KUWAIT: The foreign ministry said on Friday Kuwait has followed with deep dismay the continued circulation of caricatures lampooning Prophet Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Him). In a press statement, the ministry announced its backing of a statement by the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), which expressed the Muslim world’s rejection of such offenses and practices. The ministry warned about the danger of official political discourses supporting such assaults on religions or prophets.

Such acts instigate hatred, enmity, violence and undermine international efforts to promote the values of tolerance and peaceful coexistence, the ministry argued. It cautioned against the continued backing of such insults and any discriminatory policies which associate Islam with terrorism. These acts do not reflect the reality, ignore tolerant Islamic teachings which condemn terrorism and gravely offend Muslims worldwide, the ministry concluded.

Kuwait’s permanent mission to UNESCO also expressed its “utter rejection” of offensive remarks made about Islam and Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). “Freedoms do not mean insulting the symbol of Islam, our Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), and insulting the Islamic religion,” Kuwait’s representative at the United Nations agency said in a statement. The mission’s position is “consistent and unwavering”, he added, as is the position of the government.

“We do not accept such offenses under any circumstances. The Kuwaiti mission continuously seeks to present and adopt decisions and initiatives at UNESCO that support peace, respect divine religions and reject hostility and hatred. Last year, Kuwait’s delegation led an Arab and Islamic movement to approve a resolution at a UNESCO meeting condemning racist practices against Islam (Islamophobia), and it was approved unanimously,” he said.

The OIC earlier expressed strong indignation at the publication of the caricatures depicting the holy Prophet (PBUH), lashing out at French officials for “sowing acrimony” to further political gains after the incident. “Any attempt to ridicule prophets, irrespective of faith, is strongly condemned,” read an OIC statement, equally deploring any “acts of terrorism in the name of religion”.

This comes after a middle school history teacher was beheaded earlier this month after he had shown his students cartoons of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), which Muslims consider highly blasphemous. The OIC said the incident was a “lone wolf” attack and does not in any form represent the Islamic faith.

The Gulf Cooperation Council described recent comments made by French President Emmanuel Macron as “irresponsible”, saying they increase the spread of a “culture of hatred” between nations and harm solid ties between France and Islamic nations. “At a time when efforts should aim to support a culture of acceptance and dialogue amongst cultures and faiths, these rejected remarks are made and calls continue to spread offensive cartoons of the Prophet (PBUH),” GCC Secretary-General Nayef Al-Hajraf said in a statement.

Hajraf called on world leaders and intellectuals to “bear the huge responsibility of one who seeks peace and coexistence, rejects hate speech and the manifestation of animosity between faiths and respects the feelings of Muslims around the world, instead of succumbing to Islamophobia adopted by fundamental groups”.

A small gathering was held in Irada Square opposite the National Assembly yesterday against the cartoons and statements by Macron. Protesters held up placards mocking the French president and called for a boycott of France. A number of cooperative stores in Kuwait have also cleared their shelves of French products in protest.

“We will not give up cartoons,” Macron had vowed at a ceremony on Wednesday at the Sorbonne university in Paris to pay homage to the beheaded teacher. He said the history and geography teacher had been slain by “cowards” for representing the secular, democratic values of the French Republic. “Islamists want to take our future,” Macron said. “They will never have it.”

Macron this month described Islam as a religion “in crisis” worldwide and said the government would present a bill in December to strengthen a 1905 law that officially separated church and state in France. He announced stricter oversight of schooling and better control over foreign funding of mosques.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan yesterday slammed Macron over his policies toward Muslims, saying that he needed “mental checks”. “What can one say about a head of state who treats millions of members from different faith groups this way: First of all, have mental checks,” Erdogan said in a televised address.