France Urges Caution For Citizens As Outrage Grows In Muslim World Over Cartoons
By RFE/RL October 27, 2020
France has warned its citizens living or traveling in several Muslim-majority countries to be extra cautious amid a wave of fury over cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad.
The Foreign Ministry on October 27 urged French citizens in Indonesia, Bangladesh, Iraq, and Mauritania to stay away from any protests over the cartoons and avoid all public gatherings.
The French Embassy in Turkey issued similar advice to its citizens there.
In Bangladesh on October 27, tens of thousands of protesters held placards with the image of the French President Emmanuel Macron and the words: "Macron is the enemy of peace."
In Iran, the Foreign Ministry summoned the French charge d'affaires over the cartoons, state media reported on October 27.
The row began with a knife attack outside a French school on October 16, in which a man of Chechen origin beheaded Samuel Paty, a teacher who had shown students cartoons of Prophet Muhammad during a lesson on freedom of speech.
The caricatures, first published years ago by the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, whose editorial offices were attacked in 2015 by gunmen who killed 12 people, were considered blasphemous by some Muslims.
Since the beheading of Paty, the cartoons have been displayed in France in solidarity, while Macron, who met with representatives of France's Muslim community on October 26, pledged to fight "Islamist separatism."
Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan has been one of the most vociferous critics of the French government, leading calls for a boycott of French goods and urging Macron to check his mental health.
Erdogan has asked his compatriots to stop buying French goods and accused France of pursuing an anti-Islam agenda.
France is a major exporter of agricultural and manufactured goods to many Muslim countries.
Paris has recalled its ambassador in Ankara, and Pakistan's parliament on October 26 passed a resolution urging the government to recall its envoy from Paris.
The European Commission on October 27 warned Turkey that Erdogan's support for a boycott of French goods is a further setback to the country's already stalled bid to join the EU.
"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.
Turkey applied to join the then European Economic Community in 1987 and began formal accession negotiations to the European Union in 2005, but the talks are seen as effectively frozen.
Meanwhile Saudi Arabia, home to Islam's holiest sites, appeared to be taking a moderate response to the controversy, steering clear of boycott calls.
"Freedom of expression and culture should be a beacon of respect, tolerance and peace that rejects practices and acts which generate hatred, violence and extremism and are contrary to coexistence," a Saudi Foreign Ministry official said in a statement on October 27, adding that Saudi Arabia condemns all acts of terrorism, an apparent reference to Paty's killing.
Over the weekend, traders in Jordan, Kuwait, and Qatar removed French goods from their stores.
With reporting by Reuters, AFP, AP, and dpa
Copyright (c) 2020. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.
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