Calls for a boycott of French products multiplied on Saturday in several countries in the Middle East. The Organization for Islamic Cooperation, which brings together Muslim countries, deplored “the words of certain French officials likely to harm Franco-Muslim relations”. The stir was aroused by the words of President Emmanuel Macron, who promised not to “renounce the caricatures” of Mohammed, banned in the Muslim religion.
The French head of state spoke during a tribute to Professor Samuel Paty, beheaded by an Islamist assailant after showing his 4th year students drawings of Muhammad during a course on freedom of ‘expression.
Jams and cheeses shunned
On social networks, calls to boycott French products have multiplied since Friday, through hashtags in Arabic. AFP, however, noted several signs of an effective boycott across the Arab world.
In Qatar, the distribution chains Al-Meera and Souq al-Baladi have announced that they will “withdraw” French products from stores until further notice. In one of Al-Meera’s stores, an AFP correspondent saw employees removing St. Dalfour brand jams from shelves.
The University of Qatar also announced on Twitter on Friday the postponement of the French cultural week following “the deliberate attack on Islam and its symbols”.
Gulf countries at the forefront
In Kuwait, images showing Kiri and Babybel cheeses removed from the shelves of certain stores were relayed on social networks.
About sixty cooperative companies, which are major distributors in Kuwait, have announced a boycott of French products, the vice-president of the Federation of Cooperatives, Khaled al-Otaibi, told AFP. “We have withdrawn all French products, namely cheeses, creams and cosmetics from the shelves and returned them to authorized agents of these brands in Kuwait,” he explained.
Some 430 travel agencies in Kuwait have also suspended bookings for flights to France, the head of the Federation of Kuwaiti Travel Agencies, Mohammad al-Motairi, told AFP.
In Jordan, the Islamic Action Front, an opposition party, called on citizens to boycott French products.
The Gulf countries, notably Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, represent an increasingly important market for the exports of the French agri-food industry.
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