Canada PM Justin Trudeau
Canada PM Justin Trudeau
Photo: AFP

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Friday defended free speech, but added that it was "not without limits". He was speaking in response to a question about the right to show a caricature of the Prophet Muhammad, reported AFP.

“We will always defend freedom of expression, but freedom of expression is not without limits," he said. “We owe it to ourselves to act with respect for others and to seek not to arbitrarily or unnecessarily injure those with whom we are sharing a society and a planet," Trudeau added. “We do not have the right for example to shout fire in a movie theater crowded with people, there are always limits,” he further said.

Justin Trudeau also said, "In a pluralist, diverse and respectful society like ours, we owe it to ourselves to be aware of the impact of our words, of our actions on others, particularly these communities and populations who still experience a great deal of discrimination."

Meanwhile, Trudeau condemned the recent "awful and appalling" terror attacks in France. “It is unjustifiable and Canada wholeheartedly condemns these acts while standing with our French friends who are going through extremely difficult times,” he said.

Justin Trudeau's remarks come on the heels of the recent terror attacks in France, "anti-Islam" comments made by French President Emmanuel Macron and calls for boycotting French brands by the Muslim world.

What is the controversy over Prophet Muhammad's caricatures?

On October 16, a 47-year-old French middle school history teacher Samuel Paty was decapitated in a Paris suburb days after he took a class on freedom of expression in which he showed caricatures of Prophet Muhammad from the satire magazine Charlie Hebdo to his students. These were reportedly the same caricatures which led to the 2015 terror attack on Charlie Hebdo’s headquarters.

After the teacher's murder, Macron said, "(Paty was killed) because he embodied the Republic which comes alive every day in classrooms, the freedom that is conveyed and perpetuated in schools. Samuel Paty was killed because Islamists want our future and because they know that with quiet heroes like him, they will never have it.”

Even before the attack, Macron had defended the magazine, saying that the right to free speech included the "right to blaspheme", and pledged to fight against "Islamic separatism" in France.

Macron's comments did not go down well with the Muslim world, with many nations including Turkey, Pakistan, Kuwait, Jordan etc., calling his statements as the ones “creating further polarisation & marginalisation”.

Besides, two more extremist attacks took place in Paris on Thursday. A knife-wielding attacker Brahim Aouissaoui shouting "Allahu Akbar" reportedly beheaded a woman and killed two other people. According to the officials, Aouissaoui was from Tunisia and had arrived in Europe on board a migrant boat last month. A Quran, two phones and a 12-inch knife were found in Aouissaoui's possession, said chief anti-terrorist prosecutor Jean-Francois Ricard.

In a separate incident on Thursday, the police in France's Montfavet, near the southern city of Avignon, shot dead a man who was threatening passerby with a handgun. Radio station Europe 1 reported that this man, too, was shouting "Allahu Akbar".

Meanwhile, the leaders of the European Union (EU) issued a joint statement condemning "terrorist attacks" in France. "We, European Leaders, are shocked and saddened by the terrorist attacks in France. We condemn in the strongest possible terms these attacks which represent attacks on our shared values," read the statement released on Thursday.

Vowing to continue the "fight against terrorism and violent extremism," the leaders called on their counterparts around the world to "work towards dialogue and understanding among communities and religions rather than division."

(With input from agencies)

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