A rift between the Muslim world and France is widening, as leaders and the public in Muslim countries respond to the October 2 speech of President Emmanuel Macron saying Islam was "in crisis" globally. The fallout deepened with renewed Macron support to show caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad and anti-France demonstrations on Friday in several Muslim countries.
Tens of thousands of Muslims, from Pakistan to Lebanon to the Palestinian territories, poured out of prayer services to join anti-France protests on Friday, according to media reports.
About 10,000 people marched through Karachi, Pakistan's biggest city. Demonstrations in Pakistan's capital Islamabad turned violent as some 2,000 people who tried to march towards the French embassy were pushed back by police firing tear gas and beating protesters with batons, Al Jazeera reported.
Crowds of demonstrators hanged an effigy of French President Emmanuel Macron from a highway overpass after pounding it furiously with their shoes. Several demonstrators were wounded in clashes with police as authorities pushed to evict them from the red zone, a security area that houses Pakistan's diplomatic missions.
In Pakistan's eastern city of Lahore, an estimated 10,000 followers of the Tehreek-e-Labbaik party celebrating the Mawlid, the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad, took to the streets.
In Multan, a city in eastern Punjab province, thousands more torched an effigy of Macron and demanded that Pakistan sever ties with France and boycott French goods.
A few hundred demonstrators in Lebanon's capital Beirut flocked toward the Palais des Pins, the official residence of the French ambassador to Lebanon, but found their way blocked by lines of police officers in riot gear. Waving black and white flags people cried, "At your service, oh prophet of God." Some slung stones at police who responded with smoke and tear gas, according to the Associated Press.
In Istanbul, Turkey's largest city, worshippers thronged a mosque after Friday prayers, chanting religious slogans and holding signs lampooning Macron. Turkey has led regional condemnation of the French president, with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's verbal attacks on Macron prompting France to recall its ambassador to Turkey last weekend.
Hundreds of Palestinians also protested against Macron outside the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem, the third holiest site in Islam, chanting, "With our souls and with our blood we sacrifice for our prophet, Muhammad." Some youths scuffled with Israeli police as they exited the esplanade into the Old City. Israeli police said they dispersed the gathering and detained three people, according to Associated Press.
Scores more turned out in the Gaza Strip, where the Hamas group organized anti-France rallies at mosques across the territory that it controls. Fathi Hammad, a Hamas official, addressed a demonstration at the Jabaliya refugee camp, vowing "to stand together to confront this criminal offensive that harms the faith of about two billion Muslims," referring to depictions of the Muslim prophet. He reiterated Hamas authorities' appeal for Palestinians to boycott all French products.
In a Friday sermon aired live on Egyptian state TV, the country's minister of religious endowments appeared to denounce any violent retaliation for the cartoons. "Love of the prophet cannot be expressed by killing, sabotaging or responding to evil with evil," said Mohamed Mokhtar Gomaa, addressing dozens of worshippers at a mosque in Egypt's Delta province of Daqahleya.
In Afghanistan, members of Hezb-i-Islami set the French flag ablaze. Its leader, Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, warned Macron if he does not "control the situation, we are going to a third world war and Europe will be responsible". Cries of "Death to France" rang out in Afghanistan's capital of Kabul and several other provinces as thousands filled the streets. Demonstrators trampled on portraits of Macron and called on Afghan leaders to shut down the French embassy, sever ties and ban French citizens from the country. In the country's western Herat province, protesters hoisted an effigy of Macron on a crane and set it alight.
An estimated 50,000 people in Bangladesh marched after Friday prayers in the capital Dhaka. The angry protesters carried signs reading "World Muslims united," "Macron will pay a high price," "Stop Islamophobia," "boycott French products" and "Macron is Satan."
In Madhya Pradesh's Bhopal, thousands of Muslims led by Congress MLA Arif Masood staged a protest against France, raising slogans against Macron, according to ZEE News. An FIR has been registered against the Congress MLA and 2000 others who took part in the demonstrations. Protesters in Aligarh of Uttar Pradesh, raised slogans of the death sentence of the President of France. In a Muslim-majority district of India's financial hub Mumbai, some 100 posters showing Macron with a boot on his face and calling him a "demon" were pasted on pavements and roads, according to Reuters.
Thousands in Somalia turned up for Friday prayers in mosques where sermons were dominated by curses and condemnation of Macron and his government. Abdirahman Hussein Mohamed, a shopkeeper in the capital Mogadishu, set aside all French products including face wash, perfumes and other cosmetics with a large sign, "NOT FOR SALE". "I will never sell those products... as long as France does not apologise. France insulted our Prophet," Mohamed told Reuters.
Russian police detained around 15 people in Moscow after dozens gathered outside the French Embassy to protest against Macron. Some of the protesters stamped on portraits of Macron and chanted "Allahu Akbar," according to Reuters.
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