KUWAIT, Oct 25 (Reuters) - Kuwait’s retail co-ops have pulled French products in boycott over the use of cartoons of the Prophet Mohammad in a French school class on freedom of expression whose teacher was then beheaded by an Islamist.
The non-governmental Union of Consumer Co-operative Societies, which groups more than 70 establishments, issued the boycott directive in an Oct. 23 circular. Several co-ops visited by Reuters on Sunday had cleared the shelves of items such as hair and beauty products made by French companies.
“All French products have been removed from all Consumer Cooperative Societies,” union head Fahd Al-Kishti told Reuters, adding that the move was in response to “repeated insults” against the Prophet and had been taken independently of Kuwait’s government.
The co-ops, some the size of hypermarkets, carry government-subsidised staples for Kuwaitis and account for a big part of retail in the country, as well as organising some educational courses and recreational activities.
Muslims see any depiction of the Prophet as blasphemous.
The Organisation of Islamic Cooperation on Friday decried the brutal murder that has shaken France but also criticised the “justification for blasphemy-based harassment of any religion in the name of freedom of expression”.
Kuwait’s foreign minister, who met the French ambassador on Sunday, condemned the Oct. 16 killing as a horrendous crime but stressed the need to avoid insulting religion in official and political remarks that “inflame hatred, enmity and racism”, the ministry tweeted.
Kuwait’s imports from France stood at 255 million dinars ($834.70 million) in 2019, and 83.6 milion dinars in the first half of 2020, according to Reuters calculations based on data from Kuwait’s Central Statistics bureau.
In Saudi Arabia, the Arab world’s largest economy, a hashtag calling for the boycott of French supermarket retailer Carrefour was the second most trending on Sunday.
After a Danish paper first published the cartoons in 2005, protests and boycotts on Danish goods swept the Islamic world.
The beheading in a Paris suburb carried echoes of the Islamist attack in 2015 on the offices of satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo after it republished the cartoons.
France recalled its ambassador to Turkey on Saturday after Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said his counterpart Emmanuel Macron, who this month declared war on “Islamist separatism”, needed mental help over his attitude towards Muslims. ($1 = 0.3055 Kuwaiti dinars)
Reporting by Ahmed Hagagy in Kuwait and Marwa Rashad in Riyadh; Writing by Ghaida Ghantous; Editing by Alison Williams
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