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World Angered at French call to ‘reform’ Islam, tens of thousands gather in protests across Muslim-majority countries

15:36  30 october  2020
15:36  30 october  2020 Source:   washingtonpost.com

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BEIRUT — Anti-French protests erupted across Muslim-majority countries on Friday, with tens of thousands expressing anger over the French government’s call for “reform” of Islam, a day after three were killed in a church in what President Emmanuel Macron referred to as “an Islamist terror attack.”

a man standing in front of a crowd: Members of the Lebanese Islamist Tahrir party shout slogans as they raise flags during a protest against the French president in Beirut, on Friday. © Anwar Amro/AFP/Getty Images Members of the Lebanese Islamist Tahrir party shout slogans as they raise flags during a protest against the French president in Beirut, on Friday.

On Friday, tens of thousands of Muslims protested in the capital of Bangladesh, chanting “Boycott French products” and carrying banners calling Macron “the world’s biggest terrorist,” Reuters reported.

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Thousands of Muslims in Pakistan marched over French flags while calling for boycotts of French products after prayers, the Associated Press reported. Police officers blocked roads near the French Embassy in Islamabad, the capital, in anticipation of protests there, according to the AP.

The demonstrations were the latest sign of rising anger across the Muslim world, directed at Macron’s government’s rhetoric defending cartoons published by Charlie Hebdo, a satirical newspaper, which denigrated the prophet Muhammad.

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Anti-French protests have taken place in Bahrain, and stores in Kuwait and Qatar have removed French products from shelves. Macron’s portrait has been burned or stepped on in Turkey and Libya.

The tensions intensified two weeks ago, after a suburban Paris teacher was beheaded for showing the cartoons of Muhammad in class. The assailant, who was shot dead by police, was identified as an 18-year-old Moscow-born immigrant of Chechen descent.

Turkey’s government has since led calls to boycott French products, while several other Muslim-majority states, including Saudi Arabia, Iran and Egypt, have issued statements expressing regret or condemnation over the continued promotion of the cartoons.

In the Gaza Strip, the governing militant group Hamas organized protests at several locations throughout the coastal enclave. In the city of Khanyounis, hundreds of men and some families gathered after Friday prayers. Many trampled posters of Macron, a sharp insult in Arab cultures, and some carried posters of the French president stamped with a bootprint. Men sat in socially-distant chairs, holding protests signs and chanting anti-French slogans.

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  France warns citizens to be cautious as anger seethes in Muslim world over cartoons France warns citizens to be cautious as anger seethes in Muslim world over cartoonsIn a sign that some countries want to limit the fallout, Saudi Arabia condemned the cartoons but held back from echoing calls by other Muslim states for a boycott of French products or other actions.

In Lebanon, a country that enjoys friendly relations with France, its former colonial power, a dozen buses sporting black and white flags headed on Friday to Beirut to join others in a planned anti-French protest. Early on Friday, Lebanon’s internal security force announced road closures and security blocks around the French Embassy and Pine Residence, the official residence of the French ambassador, to thwart the gathering.

“Our leader forever, our master Muhammad,” men bellowed and chanted on a highway near the French embassy, their road blocked by barbed wire and rows of riot police. Flags, both white and black, waved in the wind emblazoned with the words, “There is no god but Allah.” Men sported headbands that read the same.

“We were very angry,” said a 35-year-old protester from Tripoli when asked how he felt about the comments from France. He declined to give his name because of a common regional wariness of being quoted in press.

“Man, these attacks on religion are not right,” he continued. “Freedom of expression does not mean we should insult prophets and messengers.”

Caricatures: tens of thousands of demonstrators against France in Bangladesh

 Caricatures: tens of thousands of demonstrators against France in Bangladesh © Provided by Le Point Tens of thousands of people demonstrated Tuesday at Bangladesh , calling for a boycott of French products after the defense by Emmanuel Macron the freedom to caricature during the homage to a teacher killed for showing caricatures of the prophet Muhammad , burning the effigy of the French president and accusing him of "worshiping Satan". Across the Muslim world, the faithful reacted with anger to Mr.

Thursday marked the prophet’s day of birth, a day celebrated by many Muslims across the world as a day of love and peace. The attacks were condemned by many on the holy day, with Muslim politicians and leaders emphasizing that such brutality flies in the face of the prophet’s message of peace; others, however, were further inflamed, angered at the resurrection of the insulting cartoons. Added to the insult is that photographic depictions of any prophet are prohibited in Islam.

“Muslims and non-Muslims refuse attacks on the prophet Muhammad … and on Islam,” yelled a man seemingly leading the protests.

“Those who do not stand by what is right, and who stand by France … do not represent us. They do not speak for us. For France is colonial, an infidel, a traitor!” he shouted. Applause followed. Not long after, protesters began throwing metal pipes and chunks of concrete on the security forces, standing mere meters away.

Fahim reported from Istanbul. Hazem Balousha in the Gaza Strip and Steve Hendrix in Jerusalem contributed to this report.

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