Saudi Arabia condemned the publication of blasphemous sketches in France depicting Prophet Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Him), but held back from echoing calls by other Muslim states for action.
A foreign ministry official said in a statement that the Gulf state condemns all acts of terrorism, an apparent reference to the beheading of a Paris teacher who showed the blasphemous sketches in a class on freedom of speech.
“Freedom of expression and culture should be a beacon of respect, tolerance and peace that rejects practices and acts which generate hatred, violence and extremism and are contrary to coexistence,” said the statement carried by state media.
Saudi Arabia's daily Arab News on Tuesday cited the head of the Saudi-based Muslim World League, Mohammed Al Issa, as cautioning that an overreaction “that is negative and goes beyond what is acceptable” would only benefit “haters”.
An informal boycott has gained momentum with Saudi businessmen and retailers calling for a ban on Turkish imports due to political tensions between the two countries. The Saudi government, however, has said authorities have not placed any restrictions on Turkish goods.
The blasphemous caricatures depicting Prophet (PBUH) were first published years ago by a French satirical magazine, whose editorial offices were attacked by gunmen in 2015, killing 12 people.
Since the beheading of the teacher this month, the blasphemous sketches have been displayed in France in solidarity, angering some Muslims.
In Saudi Arabia, calls for a boycott of French supermarket chain Carrefour were trending on social media, though stores Reuters visited in Riyadh on Monday seemed busy as normal. A company representative in France said it had yet to feel any impact.
United Arab Emirates-based Majid Al Futtaim, which owns and operates Carrefour supermarkets across the Middle East, said the chain supported regional economies by sourcing most items from local suppliers and employing thousands of people.
“We understand that there is some concern among consumers across the region at present and we are monitoring the situation closely,” it said in a statement. In Kuwait, some supermarkets have pulled French products.