Saudi Arabia late Monday condemned the promotion of cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad in France, but ignored mounting calls in the country for a boycott of French goods.
According to Alarabiya, the Saudi foreign ministry responded to the publication of the offending illustrations and increased rhetoric by France President Emmanuel Macron regarding the issue of Islam and its role in French society.
“Freedom of expression and culture should be a beacon of respect, tolerance and peace that rejects practices and acts which generate hatred, violence and extremism and are contrary to coexistence,” the statement read.
A Saudi foreign ministry “source” told local media that the kingdom “rejects any attempts to link Islam with terrorism and condemns the offensive cartoons of the Prophet of Guidance and the Messenger of Peace Mohammed bin Abdullah”.
The response comes amid mounting calls in the kingdom for a boycott of French goods after comments made by Macron about the cartoons and the projection of the illustrations of the Prophet Muhammad – in public areas in France.
The new campaign follows the beheading of French school teacher Samuel Paty by 18-year-old Abdullakh Anzorov, after the instructor showed his class cartoons of the prophet.
His brutal murder on the streets outside Paris led to a fresh debate in France on Islam and the issue of free speech.
Macron said France “will not give up our cartoons” and warned against “Islamism”, and even calling for a reform of Islam.
The row has seen Muslims across the world respond by organising boycotts of French goods and protests against Macron.
French products have been removed from the shelves of some shops in Jordan, Kuwait and Qatar, while there have been calls in the Gulf region for a boycott of French supermarket giant Carrefour.
Turkey President Recep Tayyip Erdogan urged the public to boycott French goods during a fiery televised speech.
“I am calling to all my citizens from here to never help French brands or buy them,” he said.
It follows a row between the two countries on a range of political issues including Libya and Ankara’s dispute with Greece and Cyprus on maritime borders.
Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan also accused Macron of “attacking Islam” while the parliament has called on the government to recall its ambassador from Paris.
In Saudi Arabia, #BoycottFrenchProducts was the leading hashtag over the weekend.
Some have attacked the slow response of the Saudi government to the row, and its refusal to take a harsher line on the issue.
Unlike its regional rival Turkey, Riyadh did not respond to popular calls for a boycott of French goods.
Some have contrasted this to the apparent embargo of Turkish goods entering Saudi Arabia and calls made by the kingdom’s chambers of commerce for a boycott of products and services from Ankara.
Saudi Arabia’s main regional ally the UAE – which enjoys strong relations with Paris – has been largely silent on the issue, while tightly-controlled local media have criticised the boycott campaign.