KARACHI, Pakistan – Hundreds of protesters in Pakistan burned effigies of the French leader and chanted anti-French slogans on Sunday as President Emmanuel Macron tried to send a message of understanding to Muslims around the world.
The protests, which followed anti-France protests across the Muslim world last week, came after President Macron’s interview on Saturday night in which he said he understood the shock Muslims were feeling at the cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammad. Macron spoke to Qatar-based Arab TV channel Al-Jazeera, where he also defended France’s freedoms of expression and secular values.
Macron’s office said the interview was aimed at clarifying misunderstandings around France’s position and the president’s remarks which they said were taken out of context.
“I never said that,” Macron told the Al-Jazeera interviewer, explaining that some false translations of his words in the media showed him that he supported the cartoons mocking the Prophet Muhammad. “These are lies.”
Macron explained that all religions are subject to freedom of expression and “these designs”.
“I understand and respect the fact that people can be shocked by these cartoons,” he said. “But I will never accept that anyone can justify the use of physical violence because of these cartoons. And I will always defend freedom of expression in my country, of thought, of design.
The interview sparked a storm on social media, as many argued that the Qatari station erred in giving space to the French president, who they said did not apologize for offending Muslims. Others criticized Macron for choosing Al-Jazeera, a station that has been at the center of political disputes between Arab Gulf countries and seen by many as giving airtime to extremists and Islamist groups, banned in many countries. many countries in the Middle East.
Protests in predominantly Muslim countries over the past week and calls to boycott French goods began after Macron praised a French teacher in Paris beheaded for showing caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad in classroom. Two attacks followed against a group of worshipers in a church in Nice and a Greek priest in Lyon.
Islamist groups and extremists across the Muslim world rallied their supporters against the cartoons and the French government’s staunch secular stance, continuing protests against Macron last week.
On Sunday, in the Pakistani city of Karachi, hundreds of supporters of the main Islamist party, Jaamat-e-Islami, torched an effigy of Macron. The crowd of around 500 chanted against Macron and called for a boycott of French products.
Earlier Sunday in Karachi, Shia students walked three kilometers (1.8 miles) singing and pledging to sacrifice their lives for the honor of Islam and its prophet. Some 500 students, including a few hundred women, dragged French flags across the ground and carried photos of Macron. A banner represented the face of Marcon with a large cross.
“We condemn the blasphemy of Islam and the Prophet Muhammad by the French president,” read a slogan scrawled on a French flag.
The well-organized crowd wearing face masks chanted praises for the Prophet Muhammad.
In the Pakistani city of Multan, in the center of the country, hundreds of traders gathered in a demonstration to call for a boycott of French products. The crowd also burned an effigy of Macron and chanted: “Muslims cannot tolerate the blasphemy of their prophet” and “the civilized world must show proof of being civilized”.
In Beirut, a dozen demonstrators marched to the French embassy in the Lebanese capital, waving banners on which one could read: “Everything except the prophet Muhammad” and chanted in defense of Islam. Security was tight around the embassy.
Associated Press writers Angela Charlton in Paris; Sarah El Deeb in Beirut; Asim Tnveer in Multan, Pakistan, contributed to this report.