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Does Boycotting France Work? Analyzing the data

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Muslims around the world have called for a boycott of French products, as a means of peaceful protests against the French president’s stance of showing caricatures of Prophet Muhammad s.a.w.

The French president, Emmanuel Macron, showed the caricatures in response to the killing of a school teacher who was killed for showing the cartoon in his class last month.

Analyzing the Data: France Exports To Muslim Countries

SalaamGateway had analyzed the data of France’s exports to Muslim countries based on UN’s Trade Map, the UN data of international trade of over 220 countries, France’s exports in 2019 to OIC (Organization of Islamic Cooperation) member countries accounted 9.06% of consumer-based categories.

France exported $555.1 billion worldwide in 2019, of which $50.31 billion were to the OIC member countries, which accounted of 9.06% of total exports. However, these data do not include exports of military or industrial equipment. France’s most well known industrial export is in aviation, the Airbus.

The top four product categories of French exports to OIC member countries are:

  • Pharmaceuticals: USD 3.68 billion
  • Cereals: USD 2.28 billion
  • Optical, photographic, cinematographic: USD2.2 billion
  • Essential oils and perfumes: USD1.97 billion

The top four categories represent 21% of total exports to OIC countries, at USD10.13 billion in value. The remaining export categories are footwear, printed books, meat, live animals, furniture, edible preparations, apparel, and dairy produce.

While only a few of the governments of OIC member states have voiced their protests at the French president’s act and prior rhetorics, the most vocal Muslim leader has been the president of Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdo─čan.

Taking a closer look at the countries, Turkey tops the list of Muslim countries France exports to. The top four Muslim countries for French exports are:

  • Turkey: USD6.55 billion
  • Algeria: USD5.51 billion
  • Morocco: USD5.3 billion
  • Qatar: USD4.3 billion

These top four countries represent 43% of the total French export market to Muslim countries.

However, none of the government of these countries enforcing boycotts. Instead, their people are calling for boycotts via businesses refusing to sell the French products, and consumers choosing to buy non-French alternatives.

Impact of the boycott on France

France has since called on Arab countries to prevent boycotts against their products.

In the latest exclusive interview with Al Jazeera news network at the end of October, the French president has also backpedaled on his earlier rhetoric that “Islam is in crisis”, saying instead that his government is fighting “radical Islam”. He also said that he understood the feelings of the Muslims over the cartoons, although he fell short of apologizing.

Prior to the killing of the French teacher on October 16, in early October, Macron had made speeches in France where he said that “Islam is in crisis globally”. This anti-Islam rhetoric had escalated into tragic events since.

However, France is continuing to pressure French Muslims by introducing new law known as ‘Separatism law‘ that prevents its citizens from refusing treatment from medical professionals from the opposite gender, or from allowing homeschooling their children. Since 2004, France has banned the hijab from being worn in public schools and is the only European country to do so.

A Case Study: Denmark Apologized

In September 2005, a Danish national newspaper published a series of cartoons caricaturing Prophet Muhammad s.a.w.

Muslims around the world started unofficial boycotts of Danish products since January 2006. The newspaper had issued an apology by the end of that month.

However, Muslims unofficial boycott continued for the year. This led to a 15 percent drop in Denmark’s total exports, between February until June 2006, which amounted to a drop of EUR 134 million (USD 170 million).

Despite these, in 2008, several other Danish newspapers republished the cartoons. Again, the Muslims boycotted their products, and several Danish companies had ceded losses for that year, although no clear studies were done on their overall export performance.

The Case of Starbucks

In 2014 and before then, Muslims had the impression that Starbucks donated money to the Israeli government and military. As such, many Muslims had boycotted or avoided the coffee retailer altogether, despite the fact that they had many retail stores in the Middle East.

Starbucks had to issue statements denying such rumors.

In Defense of Our Most Beloved

Some Muslims say that boycott is not the way forward, as they will end up harming French businesses, and may impact their Muslim owners or employees. These Muslims argue the most effective way to counter views you disagree with is to ignore the bigots.

However, in this case, ‘the bigots’ are not just the far-right neo-Nazis, but the government of a country implementing laws that marginalize their Muslim population, which stands at a sizeable ten percent minority.

More importantly, the boycott calls for defending our most beloved, Rasulallah s.a.w. in a peaceful manner. Not only depicting images of the prophet s.a.w blasphemous, they have also made the images demeaning, and inciting hate.

A global Muslim boycott is also one of the few times that Muslims have shown unity. That Muslims have united as one ummah, despite sectarian differences (Sunni vs Shia) or geopolitical differences.

Whether you believe a boycott can make a difference or not, it doesn’t matter. Maybe it will. Maybe it won’t. But we’ve shown you cases where global Muslim boycotts worked in defending our most beloved, Rasulallah s.a.w.

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