By Cindi Cook
PARIS (AA) - France's largest business group on Monday backed the country's president amid his controversial claims about Islam, despite widespread protests and boycott calls in Muslim countries.
In an interview with the private RMC Radio, the chairman of France's largest employer's union, MEDEF, characterized the international backlash to Emmanuel Macron's comments as "blackmail."
"We must put our principles before the possibility of developing our business," said Geoffroy Roux de Bezieu, urging companies not to buckle under a boycott on French goods.
His comments came after a recent announcement by Macron on his controversial plans to crack down on what he dubbed "Islamist separatism" in France.
Macron's remarks sparked huge controversy and a boycott of French goods, including dairy products and cosmetics, by multiple Muslim countries, including Qatar, Jordan, Kuwait, Iran, Turkey and Pakistan. Demonstrations have also taken place with posters of Macron's set alight in some instances.
The French president made the statements in the wake of the recent murder of teacher Samuel Paty outside Paris.
Samuel Paty, a 47-year-old father who taught history and geography at Bois-d'Aulne College in Conflans-Sainte-Honorine, was brutally murdered by Abdullakh Anzorov, an 18-year-old man of Chechen origin.
The teacher, during one of his classes on freedom of expression, had shown the controversial cartoons depicting Prophet Muhammad, according to the reports. Anzorov was killed by police in the aftermath of the attack. An investigation is ongoing.
The murder also gave rise to a massive police probe involving over 80 investigations and multiple suspects being questioned and taken into custody.
Last Thursday, Macron led a tribute to Paty in Paris, along with high-ranking French officials. In his speech, Macron said Paty's death was an act of "gratuitous terrorism."
Macron also vowed that France would continue to allow cartoons of the Muslim Prophet Muhammad that had sparked outcry among Muslims across the world.