JAKARTA, INDONESIA — Indonesia’s Muslim organizations staged a protest in front of the France embassy building in Central Jakarta on Monday, following the controversial statement of French President Emmanuel Macron that the cartoon of Prophet Muhammad is a reflection of the freedom of speech.

The president also sparked Muslims’ anger by saying that Islam is a religion in crisis worldwide. His administration consequently plans to table a bill that will strengthen France’s secularist laws.

Later, Macron clarified his statement. He argued that he did not mean to support the cartoon — viewed by Muslims as blasphemous — but to defend freedom of expression as a human right.

Numerous Muslim-majority countries such as Turkey, Kuwait, and Jordan have staged a boycott of renowned French brands.

The calls for boycotting French products are also flooding social media platforms in Indonesia. One of the most recent is the call to boycott French retail giant Carrefour.

The boycott does not solve the roots of the problem

People have different perspectives on whether or not to boycott French products. Some support it as a form of Muslim solidarity.

Others claim that the boycott will not provide a solution to the most fundamental issue — the French concept of laïcité, whereby church — or mosque — and state are separated.

The call for the boycott will not impact France’s economy, given that Indonesia’s import from France is relatively small compared to that from China, Australia, and India, economist Enny Sri Hartati told BBC Indonesia.

The largest import commodity from France are aircraft and its components.

Indonesia’s Statistics Agency showed that the total import from France to Indonesia in the January-July period this year dropped 17 per cent from the same period in the previous year, worth $ 682 million (around IDR 9.9 trillion).

Muslim countries should not be provoked easily in responding to what happened in France

While boycotts may take a streamlined and direct form, the spread of misinformation appears to be a more complicated issue to tackle in light of Macron’s statement.

Several days ago, a Facebook user uploaded a video with a caption alleging that Macron had ordered the closure of a mosque.

However, it was discovered that the original footage was taken in 2017. The evacuation of people from the mosque was due to the building’s expired contract and had nothing to do with Macron’s controversial statement.

Indonesia’s Foreign Ministry has summoned the French ambassador to Indonesia, the ministry’s spokesman said. The Indonesian government does not either support or ban the decision to ban French products.

Many Indonesians appreciated President Joko Widodo’s firm condemnation of Macron’s statement, as the Indonesian leader’s response is not provocative and encourages dialogue, geopolitical expert Teuku Rezasyah told Republika.

Jokowi also condemned the beheading of a teacher in Paris who showed cartoons of Prophet Muhammad in his class and slammed the knife attack that took place at a church in Nice.

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