Terror attacks in France's secular society

A man wielding a knife on Thursday killed three people in an attack at the Basilica of Notre-Dame in Nice in southern France. The suspect, a Tunisian national, has been arrested in the attack which President Emmanuel Macron has described as an Islamist terrorist attack. Follow events as they unfolded in our liveblog. The assailant was shot by police and taken to hospital. This is not the first terrorist attack that has coincided with a major religious or national holiday in the French Riviera city.
 This latest attack happens at a key time in various religious calendars. The day of the attack itself, October 29, marks the official birthday of the Prophet Mohammed and, in the Catholic Church, November 1 is known as ‘Toussaint’ or All Saint’s Day.
We must unequivocally stand behind President Emmanuel Macron to uphold the democratic values of freedom of expression, activity at the heart of knowledge, freedom of conscience, human dignity and equality between men and women. It also applauds Mr Macron’s plan weeks before to draft a law to fight “Islamist separatism” which will counter the favouring of personal laws over France’s republican values that adversely affect women’s rights. So far, these have been compromised by putative liberals and in the very name of multiculturalism. And that is ironical, as human rights are a universal declaration (Paris, 1948). Macron defended the cartoons and the right to mock religion, sparking widespread anger against France in the Islamic world and several campaigns in Muslim-majority countries to boycott French products. France will not "give up on our values," Macron said in Nice, after a Tunisian migrant went on a near half-hour rampage with a 30-centimetre (12-inch) knife, targeting people praying in the southern city's Notre-Dame basilica.
Sadly, A few hours after a knife-wielding man shouting “Allahu Akbar” beheaded a woman and killed two other people in a suspected terrorist act at a church in the French city of Nice on Thursday, former Malaysian PM Mahathir Mohamad said Muslims had the right to punish the French. In a tweet, Mahathir wrote, “Muslims have the right to be angry and kill millions of French for the massacres of the past. The French should teach their people to respect other people’s feelings.”
The recent attacks are reminders of the tensions in France's secular society, which frequently extols the values of free speech and freedom to practice religion. France is home to 5 million Muslims, many of whom live in poorer areas and are often marginalized in politics and media. The vast majority of those does not support Islamic extremism but often face unfair stereotypes.
The Nice attack was condemned by India, Turkey, Britain, The Netherlands, the Vatican and the European Commission. PM Narendra Modi tweeted, “Our deepest condolences to the families of the victims and the people of France. India stands with France in the fight against terrorism.”
France has a long and cherished tradition of freedom of expression, and there can be no justification for attacking cartoonists or journalists for what they say or draw.
 

- Prabhakar Purandare

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