UAE Foreign Minister backs Macron, slams Erdogan over Muslim integration

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) threw its support behind France’s President Emmanuel Macron over plans to further integrate its Muslim citizens into French society.

In an interview on Monday with the German daily Die Welt, the UAE’s Foreign Minister Anwar Gargash said France had every right to seek ways to achieve this goal. Gargash rejected the accusation that Macron is looking to further marginalize Muslims in the country.

Instead, Gargash accused Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of fanning the flames of discontent in France after the beheading of a French schoolteacher and a terrorist attack in Nice last month.

“With his attacks on France, Erdogan manipulates a religious issue for purposes,” said Gargash in the interview. He accused Erdogan of promoting a form of political Islam to establish himself as the leader of the Sunni Muslim world and expanding Turkey’s influence.

France and the UAE have found themselves on the same side against Turkey in recent years. Paris and Abu Dhabi support Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar in eastern Libya while the UAE has supported France as well as Greece and Cyprus against Turkish maritime claims in the eastern Mediterennean.

After the attack in Nice, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed (MbZ) called Macron to condemn the attacks as contradictory to Islamic teachings.

In his interview, Gargash praised Macron for his willingness to stand up to Turkish policies that he sees as part of an attempt to “rebuild the Ottoman Empire.”

“Europe needs a united stance towards Turkey. Wherever Erdogan sees gaps or weaknesses, he uses them to gain power,” Gargash told Die Welt.

Since the murder of Samuel Paty by a French citizen of Chechen origin and a rampage by a radicalized citizen in Nice, Macron has been heavily criticized for defending crude depictions of the Prophet Muhammad. Protests have broken out across the Muslim world against the French president and the cartoons.

Erdogan has attacked Macron personally for his remarks on Islam and has called for a boycott of French goods. European leaders condemned Erdogan’s statements in solidarity with Macron.