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Rift between France and Muslim world deepens

Tens of thousands protest in Dhaka, Saudi Arabia weighs in, and Iran summons diplomat over France’s treatment of Islam.

By Usaid Siddiqui

TORONTO—A rift between France and Muslim nations is growing after French President Emmanuel Macron said earlier this month that Islam was in “crisis”.

Tension escalated after French teacher Samuel Paty was killed on October 16 near his school in broad daylight. He had shown caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad to his students. Since the crime, French officials were perceived as linking the killing to Islam.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has criticised Macron, saying the French leader needed “mental checks” over his attitude towards Islam.

Across the Muslim world, some leaders have condemned France and Macron, including Saudi Arabia and Iran; while tens of thousands have attended protests in Bangladesh calling for a boycott of French goods.

#IStandWithFrance trends in India amid outrage in Muslim world

As Muslims across the world protest and broaden their calls for a boycott of French products, hashtags with a different message are trending in Hindu-majority India.

#IStandWithFrance and #WeStandWithFrance were among the top trends on Indian Twitter on Monday and Tuesday, with thousands expressing their solidarity with France.

France boycott call puts Turkey ‘even further’ from EU

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s support for a boycott of French goods is a further setback to Turkey’s already stalled bid to join the European Union, the European Commission said.

“Calls for boycott of products of any member state are contrary to the spirit of these obligations and will take Turkey even further away from the European Union,” a spokesman said.

Turkish president files complaint against Dutch MP Wilders

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan lodged a criminal complaint against Dutch far-right politician Geert Wilders over an insulting tweet.

“Fascism is not in our book, it’s in your book. Social justice is in our book,” Erdogan said on Sunday at a meeting of his Justice and Development Party (AK Party) in the eastern Malatya province, calling Wilders a “fascist”.

His remarks came after Party for Freedom leader Wilders, known for his anti-Islam stance, shared on Twitter an insulting cartoon of the Turkish president which was denounced by several Turkish officials, including Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu.

Palestinians protest French insults against Islam

Hundreds of Palestinians staged a protest in the town of Al-Ram in Jerusalem against French President Emmanuel Macron. They believe the French president’s critique of Islam and the country’s support for the caricatures of Prophet Muhammad were insulting.

Protesters waved banners and chanted slogans defending the prophet.

France tells its citizens in Muslim countries: Watch out for backlash

France has warned its citizens living or travelling in several Muslim-majority countries to take extra security precautions because of a surge of anger over caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad displayed in a French school.

French official says they will support the right to show offensive cartoons

French officials have said they will continue to support the right to show the caricatures after an 18-year-old student of Chechen origin killed Samuel Paty, a teacher who showed the images to his pupils as part of a civics lesson.

Tens of thousands stage anti-France rally in Bangladesh capital

Tens of thousands of protesters marched through Dhaka, the Bangladesh capital, calling for a boycott of French products and burning an effigy of Macron after he defended caricatures depicting the Prophet Muhammad.

Police estimated that more than 40,000 people took part in the march, which was halted before it could get close to the French embassy.

Hundreds of officers used a barbed-wire barricade to stop the protesters, who dispersed peacefully.

Iran summons French ambassador over Macron comments

Iran’s foreign ministry summoned the French charge d’affaires over Macron’s comments regarding Islam and Muslims.

A ministry official told the diplomat Iran strongly rejected “any insult and disrespect to the Prophet of Islam … and Islam’s pure values of Islam by any person regardless of their position”, according to local media.

Saudi Arabia condemns attempts to ‘link Islam to terrorism’

Saudi Arabia has condemned caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad and any attempts to “link Islam with terrorism”.

However, the kingdom did not echo calls by other Muslim-majority countries for action against images being displayed in France of the Prophet.

A foreign ministry statement also said Saudi Arabia “condemns every terrorist act, whoever committed it”, in an apparent reference to the beheading of teacher Samuel Paty near Paris this month.

The fallout between France and the Muslim world continues on Tuesday.

A rift has widened after two events – the first was Emmanuel Macron’s speech on October 2 in which the French president said Islam was a religion in “crisis” across the world, as he sought support for a new bill to strengthen secularism laws.

The second event, the killing of teacher Samuel Paty, has led to further upset. While Muslims condemned the gruesome daylight beheading, the response from French officials had been perceived as linking Islam with “terrorism”. There are also fears of collective punishment.

Further, because Paty was killed after showing students caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad, officials including Macron have been defiant in saying these images would continue to be allowed as a matter of freedom of expression.

The prophet is deeply revered by Muslims and any kind of visual depiction is forbidden in Islam.

Over the weekend, Muslims called for a boycott of French goods, a move supported by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who often clashes with Macron. There have also been several street protests across the Muslim world.

Some world leaders have criticised Macron’s treatment of Islam, while many in Europe stand by him.

(Courtesy: Aljazeera)

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