EMMANUEL Macron’s robust defence of the right to publish caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) played out well in the secular world.
So much pompous invective about free speech was spewed out by him as he continued to justify his attacks on Islam and the Muslim world.
But the truth is the French President doesn’t believe in the concept of free speech for everyone … why else would he continue to support General Khalifa Haftar in Libya?
Just a few days ago courageous Libyan human rights defender Hanan Al Barassi paid with her life for daring to criticise the renegade general’s brute of a son, Saddam.
Officials from many western embassies issued statements of condemnation after the attack but their French counterparts initially remained stubbornly silent over her assassination.
Al-Barassi was a fearless human rights lawyer who regularly denounced “corruption, abuse of power and violations of human rights” in her war-torn country.
Her tragic death is proof, if it were ever really needed, that those brave, vocal, Libyan women who dare to exercise freedom of speech to criticise the Haftar regime are risking their own lives.
Hanan Al-Barassi, actively tried to confront and expose corruption in the self-styled Libyan National Army, and the latest target of her criticism was Haftar’s out-of-control son Saddam.
Within 24 hours of targeting Saddam by video on her Facebook and other social accounts, she was murdered in an audacious, broad daylight attack in one of the most famous streets in Benghazi.
Eye witnesses say militias affiliated with his battalion carried out the killing in Benghazi, which is experiencing its worst security conditions since the revolution began.
Afterwards men in armed vehicles belonging to the 106 militia, dismantled all the surveillance cameras in the vicinity of Twenty Street, the scene of the assassination.
Instead of gathering evidence you can bet on Macron’s presidency they were destroying any incriminating images of the crime.
Macron is strangely silent on the episode which illustrates perfectly what he thinks of feisty women who want to speak freely about human rights and injustices. Clearly that’s not the sort of freedom of speech he is interested in defending.
Instead he will continue to fund and support Haftar while lecturing the rest of the Muslim world on the right of free speech.
Macron has more faces than a town hall clock. He supports selective freedom of expression and encourages French secularists to insult a religion of 1.8 billion followers and their beloved Prophet.
Yet dare anyone say they are not Charlie, and ask politely for some reason and respect Macron and his acolytes are the first to scream “Islamist” and dangerous.
The magazine “Charlie Hebdo” is, in reality, a worthless little rag which, until it began publishing the offensive Muhammad caricatures, had a plummeting circulation.
Eventually readers will boycott it when they grow tired of its juvenile and toxic contents as well as the cartoons so poorly drawn the name of the target has to be written alongside to help the reader recognise who it is … when you have to explain satire like that it has failed.
As it turns out, Macron’s weasel words in defence of this insignificant publication, have already cost the French economy dearly. His support of the demonisation of the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) and his attempt at appeasement by giving an exclusive interview to Al Jazeera’s Arab station in Doha served only to further expose his hypocrisy and double standards.
Little wonder French products have been removed from shops in Kuwait, Qatar, Jordan and elsewhere in the Muslim world. Are we, as Muslims, expect to soak up the insults and carry on?
Macron certainly didn’t turn the other cheek when Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan questioned his mental state … that piece of free speech prompted Macron to recall his ambassador in Turkey!
Pakistan’s leader Imran Khan has also accused Macron of deliberately provoking Muslims while various French ambassadors around the world have been hauled in and lectured about his Islamophobic language and anti-Muslim behaviour.
As long as he continues to support brutal tyrants like Libya’s renegade general, Macron has absolutely no right to lecture any of us on freedom of speech, women’s rights or human rights.
As a supporter of female empowerment I will truly miss the voice of Al-Barassi who regularly took to social media to highlight the human rights abuses, corruption and embezzlement of the rivals to the UN-backed government in Tripoli.
She fearlessly gave voice to the voiceless, in particular female victims of family violence and would post videos highlighting this.
Her murder comes 18 months after the disappearance of another brave woman Siham Sergewa, in the eastern Libyan area.
Sergiwa was a psychologist elected to the Libyan parliament in 2014. She was abducted by a Libyan National Army militia loyal to Haftar on 17 July 2019. The UN expressed its deep concern and stated that “silencing the voices of women in decision-making positions, not be tolerated.” As of today her location or fate is still unknown.
Next time Macron tries to lecture any one of us about defending freedom of speech let him be confronted with the name of Hanan al-Barassi, a woman who spoke freely and died for it at the hands of Macron-sponsored thugs.
(Yvonne Ridley is a journalist and author living in Scotland. Her latest non fiction book is called The Rise of the Prophet Muhammad: Don’t Shoot The Messenger, published by Cambridge Scholars Publishing.)