French president Emmanuel Macron warned on Tuesday that a grave and mortal danger threatened secularism and its millions of French adherents, and cautioned against insults and scorn aimed at the faith and its holy icons, including his noble personage.
The president said in a major speech that he believed in democracy, pluralism and freedom of expression, as long as they did not contravene the ideals of the republic and the French revolution.
“All are free to eat, drink, dress and draw as they please, but we cannot stand aside with our hands tied behind our backs while secularophobia spreads throughout the world,” Macron said. “The right to free expression does not include public criticism of the cherished beliefs upon which the republic was founded.”
Macron defended his campaign to fight “Islamist separatism” and demands for a pledge of allegiance to republican values from Muslim imams, saying secularism is a creed suitable for all eras and societies, and that treats all human beings as equal once they commit to its tenets.
“We must protect French society from extremism and sedition, whether with carrots or sticks,” he added. “We will not let strife tear us apart, and I will stop at nothing to protect the republic and impose, by force if necessary, the ideology of tolerance on which it was built.”