At the heart of the controversy is a clash between secular and religious values, but there can be more than that.
Supporters of the French president say he is simply defending the secularism of his country.
His angry critics say he has offended millions of Muslims and even accused him of trying to reshape Islam, thus provoking resentment over France’s colonial past.
France has a long tradition of resolute secularism. In 1905, a law enshrined the principle of secularism (secularism) in the law.
It was designed to protect the right of individuals to practice their own faith, but also to keep religion – namely the Catholic Church – out of public institutions, especially schools.
Other laws protecting the right to blaspheme go back further – there was a determined effort to keep the Church out of state affairs following the French Revolution.
So while in some countries cartoons showing the Prophet Muhammad in an unfavorable light might be prohibited by blasphemy laws, this is not the case in France, where it is legally permissible to denigrate a religion, if not a individual because of the religion they practice.
There is a very clear conflict between these principles and the values of Islam which prohibit any image of the Prophet, let alone those which mock or ridicule him.
But the controversy goes further than that.
President Macron also provokes anger for a bolder and more critical stance he has taken on what he calls Islamist separatism.
The problem is an “ideology that claims that its own laws should be superior to those of the republic,” he said in a speech earlier this month.
Islamist separatism, he said, threatens French secular values and the very future of the French Republic.
Unlike the Christian tradition, Islam has no separation between Church and State. The Prophet Muhammad was both a spiritual and a temporal leader.
Strictly speaking, Islamic religious law should be supreme. This has always created tension in Western countries where Muslims practice their religion – and in France in particular, given its secular tradition and especially now due to the Charlie Hebdo controversial.
Mr Macron appears to be taking a stand against the more innocuous forms of “Islamic separatism”, claiming they undermine French values, and he appears determined to protect freedom of expression and expression in France.
Religion is an idea, according to these values, and citizens should therefore be free to discuss and even laugh at it.
Some critics of the president say he goes beyond defending French values by criticizing Islam and trying to reshape it in the light of the West.
They say he operates in the colonial and imperialist traditions of his country’s past.
There is also no doubt that some extremist leaders and groups are using the controversy for their own ends, to gain more support and increase recruitment.
Tragically, it is also used to justify outrageous acts of brutal violence.
The intricacies of this debate are likely academic for many protesting across the Muslim world.
For them, the sight of a French leader apparently defending a blasphemous caricature of their prophet is enough to make them take to the streets.
In a religion where it is forbidden to draw their leader, the faithful are deeply offended by an image denigrating him and cannot understand the refusal of the French government to allow this to happen.