More than 50,000 people have taken to the streets in Bangladesh’s capital Dhaka, to protest against French President Emmanuel Macron’s defense of the right to publish cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed.
Police warned that crowds were heading for the French Embassy, where security had been heightened.
Organizers of Bangladesh’s largest anti-France rally disagreed with the police estimate of a 50,000-strong crowd, claiming twice as many had assembled.
Protesters marched for two kilometers, starting at the country’s national Mosque in the center of Dhaka, and chanting: “We are not afraid of bullets or bombs!” and “Macron, you are in danger!”
Some participants burned an effigy of Macron, while others carried caricatures of the leader and a fake coffin for him.
This latest protest comes after the French president sparked backlash in a number of Muslim countries when he defended the right to freedom of speech by allowing caricatures of the Prophet Mohammed, following the killing of French schoolteacher Samuel Paty.
The teacher had shown his students the caricatures in a lesson about freedom of speech and was beheaded by an Islamist Chechen on the outskirts of Paris last month.
Macron vowed a clampdown on Islamist extremism in the country and once-again defended values of freedom of speech after a terrorist attack in Nice, in which three people died, two of whom were decapitated.
Tensions were already escalating when satirical French magazine Charlie Hebdo republished cartoons of the prophet (seen as blasphemous in Islam) in August, to coincide with the trial of the gunmen who had attacked its office in 2015 and shot dead 12 members of staff.
Monday’s protest in Bangladesh is the country’s most recent gathering in which demonstrators have tried to “lay siege” to the French embassy, following another in Dhaka involving around 40,000 people last week.
The latest protest in the capital was organized by Hefazat-i-Islam, a Muslim political group; many in the crowd had come from outside Dhaka to vent their anger at Macron, but did so peacefully, according to reports.
Pictures showed a barbed-wire barricade erected by Bangladeshi police to prevent protesters entering Dhaka’s embassy district.
I sincerely thank the Bangladesh Police for today’s rallyTo provide security in a peaceful manner.Our only demand is to boycott French goods. pic.twitter.com/MkMbGp8uRe
— Abdul Mukit Monjur🇧🇩 (@MbMukit) November 2, 2020
Deputy chief of Hefazat-i-Islam, Junaid Babunagaori, urged Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina to condemn Macron, and told protesters: “I call on traders to throw away French products. I ask the UN to take stern action against France.”
On Monday Indonesia also witnessed protests, with around 2,000 people marching to the French embassy in the capital, Jakarta, while chanting, “God is Great!” and “Boycott French products!”
Boycotts on French products, led by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, have been brought into effect in a number of Muslim countries, while leaders in other nations, including Pakistan, Morocco, Iran, and Egypt have also slammed Macron.
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