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PARIS (ChurchMilitant.com) - A prominent French bishop is bowing to Islam's blasphemy law and defending censorship of cartoons of Muhammad following the slaughter of three Catholics in Nice's Notre-Dame Basilica by a Muslim jihadi.
Arguing that the French republic's value of "fraternity" is stronger than its values of "liberty or equality," Toulouse archbishop Robert Jean Louis Le Gall, O.S.B. is insisting on "limits to freedom of expression because of the claims of fraternity."
The archbishop's remarks on radio France Bleu Occitanie broadcast Friday has sparked outrage among French Catholics and secularists who are comparing the prelate's acquiescence to Islam's blasphemy law with French President Emmanuel Macron's uncompromising refusal to surrender to Islamic Sharia.
Reiterating his "full support" and "the protection of the French Republic" for French Catholics in an interview the same day with Arab television Al Jazeera, Macron said: "I shall continue defending the freedom in my country to speak, to write, to think and to draw."
"I will never accept anyone justifying any physical violence on account of these caricatures," Macron emphasized, pointing out that the cartoons did not single out Islam for mockery but lampooned all religions and politicians, including himself.
"Archbishop Robert Le Gall is signaling that violent intimidation works and that means he is only going to get more of it," world-renowned Islamic expert Robert Spencer told Church Militant.
"If France at any point in the future becomes a Sharia state that enforces blasphemy laws and subjugates Christians as second-class and inferior, Robert Le Gall can stand up and take a bow," noted Spencer, author of the newly-published Mass Migration in Europe: A Model for the U.S.?, which exposes Muslim no-go zones in France.
By encouraging threats meant to enforce Sharia blasphemy laws, Le Gall is doing all he can to bring about such a France. In doing so, he is pulling against President Macron, who has made it abundantly clear he will defend France as a free society that protects free speech. Future generations may regard the agnostic Macron as a greater defender of the Faith than Abp. Le Gall, whose submission and surrender would condemn future generations of Catholics to precarious lives of cowering before their Sharia-enforcing overlords.
In his radio interview, Le Gall insisted that people do not "have the right to insult religions" and "religions cannot be mocked, (because) we see the results."
The archbishop said that cartoons of Muhammad "are considered an insult to Muslims and Christians alike and they should not be spread further," when asked if it was right for the caricatures to be shown to schoolchildren.
"Sometimes we put fuel on the fire through Charlie Hebdo cartoons," he commented, "because these cartoons are against Muslims, but they are also against the Christian religion."
"Religions are not made fun of with impunity. We cannot afford to make fun of religions; we see the results of this," he reiterated.
However, the prelate's critics were quick to note that Le Gall has until now never condemned blasphemies against Christianity or Judaism in the French media.
"We publish caricatures every week, but people only describe them as declarations of war when it's about the person of the Prophet [Muhammad] or radical Islam," cartoonist Stéphane Charbonnier told Der Spiegel in 2012.
"We are only criticizing one particular form of extremist Islam, albeit in a peculiar and satirically exaggerated form," said Charbonnier, one of the 12 killed by two jihadi gunmen at Charlie Hebdo's Paris office in January 2015.
Paris-based satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo regularly publishes offensive cartoons against Christianity and has been sued 13 times by various Catholic organizations, but never opposed by the bishops.
The caricatures against Christianity have been outrageously blasphemous — even depicting the Holy Trinity engaging in sodomy.
Revealing he has spoken to Pope Francis, President Macron told Al Jazeera he would not submit to an Islamic law on blasphemy: "These illustrations were drawn in France and the law applicable in France is not the law of Islam; it is the law of the sovereign French people."
Other bishops joined in the anti-free speech chorus against the cartoons. "Freedom of expression 'is sacred in France,'" said Bp. André Marceau of Nice, "but this does not mean that we must support the spread of vulgar and offensive cartoons, such as those made on Islam and the Catholic Church by Charlie Hebdo."
"How can the quintessence of the French spirit reside in vulgarity and malevolence? By laughing sarcastically at what matters most to another citizen, are we putting ourselves on an equal footing?" asked Abp. Jean Legrez of Albi. "Freedom of expression should never make fun of the respect due to the beliefs of others."
Vice president of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of Bangladesh (CBCB) Bp. Gervas Rozario said Charlie Hebdo "has committed an unforgivable injustice by publishing caricatures of Prophet Muhammad, the founder of Islam."
Islam prescribes the death penalty for those who insult or mock the religion's founder following Ibn Taymiyyah's landmark legal treatise Kitāb al-ṣārim al-maslūl ʿalā shātim al-Rasūl, stipulating that anyone "who curses (sabba) the Prophet Muhammad must be killed without further recourse."
Pope Francis' Muslim dialogue partner Grand Imam Ahmad al-Tayyeb demanded an international law banning criticizing or insulting Islam — a day before the jihadi attack in Nice's Notre-Dame Basilica.
In 2015, Pope Francis made remarks that seemed to justify violent Muslim mobs protesting against Charlie Hebdo's caricatures of Muhammad. "If my good friend Dr. Gasparri says a curse word against my mother, he can expect a punch," Francis said while pretending to throw a punch in the direction of the person organizing his trips.