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The New Arab Staff & Agencies

Thousands stage anti-France protests in Bangladesh, Pakistan

Protesters in South Asia have condemned Macron's support for the Charlie Hebdo cartoons [Getty]

Date of publication: 30 October, 2020

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Angry protests were held on Friday in Afghanistan, Pakistan
Tens of thousands of protesters across South Asia vented their fury at France on Friday, with a crowd in Bangladesh burning an effigy of President Emmanuel Macron as anger flared over his tough stance on Islamist extremism.

Macron defended freedom of expression and condemned Islamist violence earlier this month after the beheading of a teacher in Paris who showed pupils a cartoon of the Prophet Mohammed, prompting a backlash across the Muslim world.

France remains on edge after a knife-wielding man killed three people at a church in the southern city of Nice on Thursday.

Huge crowds took to the streets of Dhaka to condemn the French leader after Friday prayers - the Bangladeshi capital's second anti-France protest in five days. 

"We are all soldiers of Prophet Mohammed," chanted the crowd at the city's main protest site, where demonstrators called for a boycott of French goods and some burned an effigy of the leader.

Police said 12,000 people took part in the Dhaka rally, though independent observers and organisers claimed more than 40,000 marched in the city. Smaller crowds gathered outside hundreds of mosques elsewhere in the capital and around the country.

"France is insulting the world's two billion Muslims. President Macron must apologise for his crimes," said Gazi Ataur Rahman, a senior leader of Islami Andolan Bangladesh, one of the political parties which called the protests.

Another rally in Pakistan's capital grew rowdy, with stones thrown at police and tear gas fired to control the crowds.

Around 2,000 protesters in Islamabad marched towards the French embassy, pushing aside shipping containers that had been placed to block their path.

The crowed shouted "expel the French dog" and "behead the blasphemous" but were prevented from reaching the embassy by further guarded barricades.

'How dare they?'

"How dare they disrespect our prophet? As a Muslim I am ready to sacrifice my head for the prophet's honour. A Muslim can sacrifice his head and can also cut the head of the blasphemous," said Rasheed Akbar, a 34 year-old trader who joined the crowd. 

Another 10,000 people marched through Karachi, Pakistan's biggest city, after Friday prayers in what was organised as a procession to mark the Prophet's birthday but which was charged with anti-France anger.

Prime Minister Imran Khan has accused Macron of attacking the Muslim faith and called on Islamic countries to work together to counter what he called growing Islamophobia in European countries.

Small protests were also held in neighbouring Afghanistan, with thousands in the western city of Herat shouting "Death to France! Death to Macron!".

Macron's comments have prompted denunciations from several Muslim countries.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's office vowed to take "legal and diplomatic action" over the cartoon, while the country's NTV broadcaster said Ankara had summoned a senior diplomat from the French embassy.

Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei called Macron's defence of the publications a "stupid act" and an "insult" to those who voted for him. 

More than 40,000 took part in an anti-France demonstration in Dhaka earlier this week, and the country's embassy there has been given extra security.

Even in India, where the Hindu nationalist government has strongly backed Macron, leaders of the country's minority Muslim community have called for a boycott of French goods.


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