Extract from the remarks of Jean-Yves Le Drian, Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs, in the plenary session of the National Assembly, on the review of the 2021 budget bill
To address the unrest and the challenges in today’s world, France needs strong diplomacy.
This world is a world of crises, such as the COVID-19 pandemic crisis, which is still hitting our country and Europe very hard.
It is a world in which there are violent power struggles and in which our French and European sovereignty is being challenged on a daily basis.
And it is a world which is extremely dangerous, as we know all too well and as this morning’s terrorist attack, killing three of our compatriots, and the stabbing last night on one of our security guards at our consulate in Jeddah, have just reminded us.
These are extremely serious acts. And allow me to say a few words about them […]. In this dangerous world, hate has taken on new faces; it has spread down new paths; it is using new pretexts. But one thing has not changed: hate continues to kill. Because hate, even online, is the most prominent word of violence.
That is why we cannot accept that certain people in the world seek, even if it means playing with fire, to spread confusion, manipulate public opinion and exploit movements playing on people’s emotions for their own ends.
We cannot accept that they call our commitment to fundamental freedoms an attack on the freedom of religion, while those who are familiar with the history of our Republic know well that these freedoms are to us, on the contrary, both the means to guarantee the freedom to believe or not to believe and the peaceful coexistence of religions within a public space.
Let us state very clearly, once and for all, that Muslim people in France are fully fledged members of our national community. Our secular Republic recognizes that it is equally legitimate for them to practice their religion as it is for people practicing other religions, just as it recognizes the right to be an atheist.
And therefore, we cannot accept these disinformation and manipulation campaigns because they aim to distort and misrepresent these realities. And because today, we see in this tragedy that we can quickly move from virtual hate to real violence.
So, I would now like to send three very clear messages, which I truly hope will be spread and understood with all of their implications far beyond this Assembly.
The first is that words and deeds have consequences, for which their authors are responsible. And that France never forgets.
The second is that Europeans, and even beyond Europe, very many States promoting goodwill around the world are not being fooled: we clearly see and our partners clearly see that what is at stake is first and foremost an essential – almost existential – fight against religious extremism and radicalism.
The final message is that we will never compromise regarding our humanist values of freedom and our model of democracy and pluralism. And today, which is yet another day of hardship for our Nation, these values and this model must continue to be our compass. Nothing would be worse than falling into the traps that have been laid, the traps of conflation and confusion. And that is why I would also like to send a message of peace to the Muslim world, to let them know that France is not a nation of contempt or rejection; it is a nation of tolerance.
Do not listen to the voices that are trying to stir up distrust: the Muslim religion and culture are part of our French and European history, and we respect them. Let us not get caught up in the excesses of a minority of manipulators.