The Muslim world is livid with French president Emmanuel Macron who remained unfazed after the terror stabbing in Nice and vowed that they will not concede any ground on freedom of expression and the right to mock religion.
The fury has raged ever since Macron defended Charlie Hebdo cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed which led to a teacher's murder in the Paris suburbs two weeks ago. Macron had then described the slain teacher as a 'quiet hero.' Muslim leaders have, however, said that the caricatures are taking free speech too far and accused France of promoting an anti-Islam agenda.
The Muslim anger spilt into the streets in Pakistan, Afghanistan, India, Bangladesh and Indonesia with protestors burning effigies of Macron and stamping on pictures of his face.
In Bangladesh, tens of thousands of Muslims protested chanted slogans such as 'boycott French products' and carried banners denouncing Macron as 'the world's biggest terrorist.' In Pakistan, thousands of Muslims came out of prayer services on the occasion of the Prophet’s birthday to voice their anger. In Mumbai, pedestrians and motorists in the Bhendi Bazaar area found hundreds of posters of Macron pasted on the Mohammed Ali Road.
The Turkish president has dubbed the cartoonists 'scoundrels' and accused the West of wanting to 'relaunch the Crusades' by attacking Islam. Iran's President Hassan Rouhani has also taken aim at France by warning that insulting the Prophet would encourage 'violence and bloodshed'.
Macron, meanwhile, has called for unity in the country and said in a tweet that "Whatever your religion, believer or not, we must unite at these times. Do not give in to the spirit of division."
European leaders have come to Macron's defence in his row with Erdogan, with Britain's foreign secretary Dominic Raab this week calling on NATO allies to stand together in defence of tolerance and free speech.
‘‘The UK stands in solidarity with France and the French people in the wake of the appalling murder of Samuel Paty,’’ Raab said in a veiled rebuke to Turkey. German chancellor Angela Merkel had also defended Macron after Erdogan suggested he needed 'mental checks'.
Meanwhile, Malaysian leader Mahathir Mohamad said on Friday he is disgusted because his comments on attacks by Muslim extremists in France had been taken out of context.
Mahathir, 95, sparked widespread outrage when he wrote on his blog on Thursday that “Muslims have a right to be angry and kill millions of French people for the massacres of the past.” Twitter removed a tweet from Mahathir containing the remark, which it said glorified violence and France’s digital minister demanded the company also ban Mahathir from its platform.
(To download our E-paper please To view our epaper please Tap here . The publishers permit sharing of the paper's PDF on WhatsApp and other social media platforms.)