In spite of President Emmanuel Macron’s attempts to calm the controversy over France’s right to publish cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed, protests against France continue.
Reactions to the interview Macron gave to the Qatar-based Al Jazeera television service on 1 October have been mixed. Macron said he understands why Muslims worldwide were offended by cartoons targeting the Prophet, but he maintained that France will never abandon the right of "freedom of expression."
But not many people agreed.
In Bangladesh, some 50,000 people protested and called for the boycott of French products, while in Indonesia, 2,000 Muslims marched to the heavily guarded French Embassy in the capital on Monday, waving white flags bearing the Islamic declaration of faith.
Authorities blocked streets leading to the embassy where more than 1,000 police and soldiers were deployed in and around the building barricaded with razor wire.
The protesters chanted “God is Great” and “Boycott French products” as they marched.
Smaller protests also occurred in other Indonesian cities, including in Surabaya, Makassar, Medan and Bandung.
On Saturday, Indonesian President Joko Widodo strongly condemned terrorist attacks in Paris and Nice as well as remarks by Macron that were deemed offensive toward Islam and Muslims.
In India, home to the world’s second-largest muslim population after Indonesia, members of the Muslim community took to the streets in demonstrations in Mumbai, Bhopal, Aligarh, Hyderabad, the Kashmir capital Srinagar and in Gujarat’s old Vadodara city following French President Emmanuel Macron’s comments justifying cartoons of Prophet Mohammed, as seen in the Charlie Hebdo weekly newspaper.
In Pakistan, Prime Minister Imran Khan denounced French President Emmanuel Macron’s remarks on blasphemous caricatures, calling them “encouragement of Islamophobia”. He also wrote a letter to Facebook chief Mark Zuckerberg seeking a ban on Islamophobic content, similar to the website’s measures against Holocaust deniers.
One day later, Pakistan‘s Foreign Ministry on Monday summoned the French ambassador in Islamabad to complain about Macron’s comments.
“The seeds of hate that are being cultivated today will polarise the society and have serious consequences,” Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi said in a statement.
Iran’s judiciary chief, Ibrahim Raesi, was quoted by the official Mehr News Agency as saying that “Macron's recent anti-Islamic remarks” were "an unwise move that is worse than attacking a church" and have “provoked terrible consequences such as the recent attack on the church in Nice”.
Raeisi added that the Islamophobia among Western rulers “is the result of the spread of Islam among Western youth”.
Iran’s Foreign Minister Javad Zarif wrote on Twitter: “Muslims are the primary victims of the ‘cult of hatred’ – empowered by colonial regimes & exported by their own clients. Insulting 1.9 billion Muslims - & their sanctities – for the abhorrent crimes of such extremists is an opportunistic abuse of freedom of speech. It only fuels extremism.”
The official Saudi Press Agency quoted Secretary General of the Gulf Cooperation Council Dr. Nayef Falah M. Al-Hajraf as saying that “that the latest irresponsible remarks over Islam and Muslims, uttered by the French President Emmanuel Macron would further the spread of the culture of hatred among peoples as they do not serve strong relations among the Islamic peoples and the friendly French people.”
Other Muslim majority countries calling for boycott of French products included Qatar, Kuwait, Algeria, Sudan, Palestine and Morocco.
Turkey has also condemned Macron's attitude toward Muslims and Islam, with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan saying the French leader needed a "mental health check".
Council of French Muslims
Earlier, the president of the French Council of the Muslim Religion (CFCM) tried in a statement to walk the fine line between freedom of expression, defended by the French President, and calls for censorship of cartoons depicting the Prophet Mohammed, remarking that “all religions are targeted” by Charlie Hebdo, and “the Prophet of Islam is not their only target.”