A number of Islamic groups held a protest in front of the French embassy in Sarinah, Central Jakarta yesterday. In the event dubbed as "Aksi 211", demonstrators called for a boycott of French products and directed their anger at high-end fashion items in response to what they perceived as Islamophobic comments from the country's leaders.
The most notable of such a symbolic rejection of France occurred when a number of female protesters stomped on bags with the "LV" monograms, a signature of French luxury brand Louis Vuitton, and called on others to join them, as reported by CNN Indonesia. For the sake of fashion sanity, we sure hope they were stomping on cheap Tanah Abang knock-offs instead of genuine LVs.
Another group of protesters reportedly expressed their anger towards France by stomping on a caricature of the president, Emmanuel Macron, whose controversial statement was deemed to discredit Islam, which subsequently unleashed a backlash from Muslims worldwide. The caricature portrays Macron with yellow eyes and sharp long ears, with slogans such as "Boycott French Products, France The Real State Terrorism" and "Boycotting France is a form of freedom of expression."
CNN Indonesia also reported that the protesters even went as far as not drinking bottled water produced by French companies.
The protest saw Hanif Alatas in attendance, the son-in-law of the infamous leader of the hardline Islamic Defenders Front (FPI) Rizieq Shihab.
"Turkey has boycotted [French products]. Are we going to boycott? Do you agree with the boycott?" Hanif shouted from on top of a commando car, to the excited cheers of the protesters.
Boycott on the 'gram
The boycott of luxury French products also took place away from the protest grounds. Former MTV VJ Arie Untung, who has embraced a more pious lifestyle in the last couple of years, told his 2.5 million Instagram followers that he will stop wearing items from French luxury brands – which he symbolized by showing posting a photo of his Celine, YSL, Chanel, and Louis Vuitton bags thrown on the floor.
"Because their country has insulted my prophet in His birth month, these junks from French brands do not deserve to belong in the wardrobe of an owner who really loves his prophet. We won't wear these items no matter the price, it's not comparable to my prophet at all. So insulting," Arie wrote, adding that the decision would show Macron the financial impact that resulted from his "insult."
Anwar Abbas, a member of the Leadership Council of the Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI), previously called on the Indonesian government to give a stern warning to the French government and withdraw the Indonesian Ambassador in Paris until Macron retracts his statement and apologizes to Muslims. He also said that Indonesian Muslims are ready to boycott French products.
Meanwhile, President Joko Widodo condemned Macron in his statement on Saturday.
"Indonesia harshly condemns French president's statement that has insulted the religion of Islam, which hurt the feelings of Muslims all over the world," Jokowi said.
In early October, Macron unveiled a plan to defend France's secular values against Islamic radicalism, saying that the religion is "in crisis" across the world. The comment came as the French government prepares a bill to officially separate religion and state.
The comment deepened Islamophobic sentiment in France, particularly after the recent gruesome murder of Samuel Paty, a French teacher who was beheaded by a Muslim refugee after the former showed caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad in a lesson on freedom of expression to his students. Any depiction of Muhammad is considered blasphemous in Islam.
Macron said the murder was a "typical Islamist terror attack" and the caricature of Muhammad was projected onto French government buildings in honor of Paty last week. These, and the Islam in crisis comment, prompted Islamic leaders worldwide, including Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdo?an to strongly condemn Macron.