(Dhaka) Tens of thousands of people demonstrated in Bangladesh on Tuesday, calling for a boycott of French products after Emmanuel Macron’s defense of the freedom to caricature during the tribute to a teacher killed for showing caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad, burning the effigy of the French president and accusing him of “worshiping Satan”.
Posted on October 27, 2020 at 7:04 am
Updated at 6.30 p.m.
France Media Agency
Across the Muslim world, worshipers reacted angrily to Mr. Macron’s comments: in rebel areas in Syria, the Gaza Strip or Libya, portraits of the French president have been burned. In several Gulf countries, French goods have been removed from the shelves.
Emmanuel Macron had promised not to “renounce caricatures”, during a national tribute to Professor Samuel Paty, beheaded by an Islamist on October 16 for showing caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad to his students during a course on freedom expression.
The French satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo, which published the cartoons in 2006 like other European newspapers in defense of press freedom after their publication by a Danish daily angered many Muslims around the world, was victim in 2015 of a jihadist attack which killed 12 people, including journalists and cartoonists from the newspaper.
Islam, in its strict interpretation, prohibits any representation of the Prophet Muhammad.
In Dhaka, more than 40,000 people, according to police estimates, took part in a march organized by Islami Andolan Bangladesh (IAB), one of Bangladesh’s main Islamist parties. It was stopped before reaching the French embassy in the capital of Bangladesh, a predominantly Muslim country.
Hundreds of policemen blocked off with barbed wire to block protesters about 3 miles from the embassy.
The demonstrators dispersed without violence but a small group set a portrait of Mr. Macron on fire. “Macron is going to pay dearly for it”, assured protesters, calling for a boycott of France.
Police have stepped up their patrols around the embassy. The IAB called for further protests across the country on Thursday and Friday.
Further protests were scheduled for Tuesday in Gaza, the West Bank, Israel and southern Yemen.
« Punir » Macron
In Dhaka, demonstrators chanted slogans calling for a “boycott of French products” and “punish” Mr. Macron.
“Macron is one of the few leaders who worship Satan,” senior IAB official Ataur Rahman told the crowd.
He called on the Bangladeshi government to “kick out” the French ambassador.
“France is the enemy of Muslims. Those who represent it are also our enemies, ”said Nesar Uddin, a young leader of the organization.
Bangladesh, in particular its textile industry, is an important trading partner of France. The cement manufacturer Lafarge is one of the main French investors in the country.
The country has seen several Islamist attacks in recent years. In July 2016, at least 17 foreigners died in an attack by a group linked to the Islamic State organization against a cafe in Dhaka.
Stream of criticism
The flood of criticism towards Mr. Macron and calls to boycott French products have been fueled in particular by Turkey, whose President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has questioned Mr. Macron’s “sanity”.
Mr. Erdogan finds himself caricatured on the front page of the Charlie Hebdo to be released on Wednesday. Ankara reacted strongly by accusing the weekly of “cultural racism”.
Tehran summoned the number two of the French embassy in Iran. Islamabad did the same with the French Ambassador to Pakistan. In Jordan, the Minister of Islamic Affairs Mohammed al-Khalayleh protested. Morocco “vigorously” condemned the cartoons.
The High Islamic Council in Algeria lambasted a “virulent campaign” against Islam. Abu Dhabi-based Muslim Council of Elders chaired by Grand Imam Al-Azhar announced plans to continue Charlie Hebdo and “whoever offends Islam”.
The leader of the Russian Republic of Chechnya, Ramzan Kadyrov, even said that the French president is pushing Muslims “towards terrorism”.
Faced with these protests, the French Minister of the Interior Gerald Darmanin wondered “by what right foreign powers interfere in our internal affairs”, citing Turkey and Pakistan.
For the Minister Delegate for Foreign Trade Franck Rieste, calls to boycott French products are for the moment limited and only affect food products.
Mr Macron received support from European leaders after Mr Erdogan’s attacks, and a European Commission spokesperson warned on Tuesday that the Turkish president’s call to boycott French products “will take his country even further away” from the EU.
Speaking directly to Mr. Erdogan, the Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte sent him “a very simple message (…)” on Tuesday. “In the Netherlands we consider freedom of expression to be the greatest good and this includes cartoons, including cartoons of politicians,” he said in a video on Dutch public television NOS.
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