French President Emmanuel Macron’s recent controversial statements about Islam and his stance regarding the continued publication of blasphemous caricatures of The Holy Prophet’s (PBUH) served as a source of bitter disappointment for the Muslim community worldwide. Citizens of several Muslim countries publicly called for an official boycott of French products to demonstrate their opposition against Macron’s insensitive actions. Pakistanis are no different.
While every Muslim country is contributing a unique weightage of resistance, here are five interesting facts about #BoycottFrenchProducts’ increased momentum which may motivate us to appreciate and self-assess ourselves as Pakistanis:
1. Pakistani Market accounts for 0.08% of France’s exports only
While the attempt to boycott a country’s products to get our disapproval across is plausible, unfortunately, this protest in the Pakistani context is merely symbolic. The power to ‘actually’ influence world politics cannot be achieved without economic stability. We do not want to sound like Donald Trump here but, for the sake of national integrity, the Ministry of Finance and our Industrial Sector needs to really “do more”.
2. Sephora has been accused of racially discriminating against Asians
Many Facebook groups are asking women in Pakistan to boycott the international giant makeup retailer, Sephora and not to order makeup from the popular chain. Sephora was founded by a French entrepreneur, Dominique Mandonnaud, and has its headquarters based in Paris, France. In 2014, customers filed a lawsuit against the retailer for engagement in racial discrimination against Asians.
3. Divide and rule?
Not long ago, to condemn Macron’s derogatory remarks about Islam, Prime Minister Imran Khan tweeted that President’s comments seem “to deliberately provoke Muslims, including own [France’s] citizens” to which a French minister responded by telling Khan to stay out of France’s domestic affairs. On 3rd November, renowned French news media outlets like France24 released a news piece titled, “Several French Muslim leaders on Monday condemned calls for boycotts of French goods in Muslim countries as unjustified and accused those leading the charge of using Islam for political gain”. The statement has been released on behalf of the leaders of the Great Mosques of Paris, Lyon and the French Mediterranean island of Reunion and three main Muslim groups of the country. The sole purpose of this boycott is to protect the sentiments of a ‘unified’ Muslim community throughout the world; however, French media says otherwise. Divide and rule?
4. LU is not French
Netizens, leave LU out of this! While social media posts calling out for the boycott of LU biscuits went viral, a BBC report verified that our very Pakistani Continental biscuits Limited (CBL) is in fact a joint venture with an American company called Mondelez. LU was initially registered under a French trademark but was bought by the American Company a while later. So, let bygones be bygones.
4. Taking a stand
Pakistanis have never shied away from risking anything to stand with their fellow Muslims worldwide. An interesting example of this can be our ever-favorite apparel brand. Back in 2011, Gul Ahmed received an award from the French Ambassador Daniel Jouanneau for being the largest exporter to France in Home Textile category. Despite reporting an annual loss of 625 million due to Covid-19 induced lockdown in the fiscal year of 2019-2020, Gul Ahmad did not condemn the boycott. The company seems to have risked its financial position in case France decides to reciprocate the ban due to the deteriorating relations between the two countries. Putting communal interests over business is a commendable gesture indeed.