Finnish President Sauli Niinistö raised his voice in support of his French colleague, Emmanuel Macron, who is being the victim of an international discredit campaign promoted from some Muslim-majority countries following his plan to curb radical Islamism in his country.
The trigger was Macron's response to the brutal murder of teacher Samuel Paty, who was beheaded by a radicalized young jihadist on the outskirts of Paris for showing cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad to his students during a debate on freedom of expression.
The French have been shocked by this action, which the Government has confronted as a direct terrorist attack against the values of the Republic.
Macron responded to the attack by closing some mosques like the one in Pantin, in the periphery of Paris, and by projecting the cartoons on French public buildings. In addition some Islamist-inspired groups have been dissolved.
Calls to boycott
The response of the Arab and Muslim world has been uncoordinated and uneven, which shows the different weight that religion has in different countries. Even so, some leaders responded with insults, protests and even calls to boycott French products.
Protest march towards the French Embassy in Dhaka (Bangladesh). Photo: Suvra Kanti Das/dpa.
The loudest protests have taken place in countries such as Turkey, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Iran, Morocco, Egypt, Qatar and Kuwait. Turkish President Recep Tayipp Erdogan has been particularly aggressive, saying on Monday that European leaders are "fascists" who support "hostility towards Islam and Muslims."
"What is the problem this person called Macron has with Islam and Muslims? Macron needs mental treatment," Erdogan said over the weekend.
Pakistani demonstrators in Karachi. Photo: Ppi/dpa.
In Kuwait there were calls from various cooperatives for a boycott and in Qatar French products were withdrawn from various stores. The foreign ministers of Jordan and Morocco also condemned the publication of the cartoons. Egypt's Al-Azhar University, Sunni Islam's influential seat of learning, has also denounced the cartoons as "part of a systematic campaign to use Islam to win political battles."
Finland supports France
In the midst of this crisis, Finnish President Sauli Niinistö has been one of the European leaders who has raised his voice in defence of France and its president Emmanuel Macron.
"I stand in full solidarity with President Emmanuel Macron and our colleagues in the defence of European values and in the fight against terrorism," wrote, quoting President Niinistö, the official account of the President of the Finnish Republic.
President Niinisto's strong message contrasts with the silence maintained by the leaders of the five-party coalition government that rules Finland.
Not even through Twitter, where they are usually very active, have neither Prime Minister Sanna Marin, nor Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto nor the Minister of the Interior Maria Ohisalo expressed their condemnation of the terrorist attack that has terrified French society.
Last Thursday, in the absence of an official statement condemning the murder of teacher Samuel Paty, the far-right party of the True Finns (Perussuomalaiset) used question time in Parliament to interrogate the Government about its silence.
Many citizens have also criticized the Government for this on social media. Niinisto's message, for its part, received both support and criticism.