Muslims all over the world protested after the French president’s defense of secular values and the right to blasphemy after a university professor was beheaded near Paris after he showed cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad in his class.
In Saudi Arabia, a citizen stabbed a security guard at the French Consulate in Jeddah on Thursday, and a campaign to boycott French products was launched in several Gulf countries.
In Kuwait, 60 shops have pulled French products from their shelves, and travel agencies have stopped bidding for trips to France. “The messenger is a red line that must not be crossed,” said Khaled Hussein, the manager of one of these stores.
In Qatar, the Al Meera supermarket chain, whose head is a member of the government, has stopped supplying its shelves with French products.
Two official sources said that Qatar will boycott this year’s Paris Peace Forum, which is scheduled to be held from November 11 to 13.
For Gerd Nonneman, a specialist on Gulf affairs at Georgetown University in Qatar, the long-term impact of the boycott campaign depends on Macron’s stance.
He explained that if the French president maintains his current speech, “there will be an impact in the long term, even if the commercial impact remains modest.” But this would not be the case “if Macron changes his tone in the coming months”.
France has a presence in the Gulf, especially through large collections and luxury brands such as “Louis Vuitton”. The Louvre Museum in Abu Dhabi opened a center, and the architect Jean Nouvel designed the Qatar National Museum, while a French company is building the Jeddah metro in western Saudi Arabia.
France also sells equipment and technology worth billions of euros to the wealthy Gulf states.
Saudi Arabia is France’s largest regional trading partner, with exchanges amounting to ten billion euros in 2018, ahead of the UAE (4.5 billion euros), according to the latest French Treasury figures.
Riyadh condemned the “caricature of the Prophet” but for Michael Stephens, a member of the “Royal United Services” institute, the kingdom did not take any concrete boycott measures.
The same applies to the UAE, which “limited its reaction” to condemning the cartoons, according to Chincia Bianco, a researcher at the European Council on Foreign Relations.
The jihadist attack in Nice, in addition to the attack in Jeddah, may lead to a dampening of reactions in the Gulf, said H.A. Hillier, a researcher at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. “After the murders that took place in Nice Thursday, there will be less desire to criticize France. “.
Bianco indicated that this controversy could jeopardize France’s strong ties with Qatar.
She explained that “the increasing French hostility towards Turkey may harm relations between France and Ankaras closest ally in the Gulf, which is Qatar.”
Qatar has become close to Turkey since its neighbors boycotted it, and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan presents himself as a strong defender of the Prophet Muhammad and strongly criticizes the French president.
Three years ago, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt accused Qatar of supporting militant Islamist groups, something Doha denies.
The anti-French campaign has found resonance in Qatar, where a resident showed a list of 100 French products that should be boycotted, among them Evian water and Lacoste clothing.
He said, “Offending our religion and our prophets is not something that should be done and I will not buy (anymore) any French product.
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