Ekmeleddin İhsanoğlu, who heads the 57-nation Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), said France was in a “paradoxical contradiction,” championing freedom of expression on the one hand while passing legislation to ban debate on a “claim regarding history.”
“The OIC rejects this nonsense,” İhsanoğlu told the Anatolia news agency on the sidelines of an OIC meeting in İstanbul. “There are three principles at the core of the French Republic: liberty, equality and fraternity. To me, this legislation inflicts harm on at least two of them.”
İhsanoğlu also lambasted what he called an “unacceptable contradiction” in Europe over freedom of expression, saying caricatures insulting Prophet Muhammad are defended in the name of free speech while such a bill could be enacted in the French parliament.
France formally recognized in 2001 Armenian claims that Armenians in Eastern Anatolia were subject to a systematic genocide campaign during the final years of the Ottoman Empire, but provided no penalty for anyone refuting that. The National Assembly, the lower house of the French parliament, passed a bill on Thursday which sets a punishment of up to one year in prison and a fine of 45,000 euros ($59,000) for those who deny or "outrageously minimize" the killings, putting such action on par with denial of the Holocaust. An amendment proposal exempting academic and scientific studies on the issue was withdrawn after lengthy debates.
“When you criticize those who insult others, our Prophet and sacred values, we are told that this is freedom of expression. When someone draws uncivilized caricatures about our most sacred values, no punishment is considered because they say it is an issue of freedom of expression. Now, the same people who defend these [insults and caricatures] pass a bill to punish those who do not accept this claim about history,” İhsanoğlu said. “This is undisputedly an unacceptable contradiction.”