Pakistan charlie hebdo protests
Protesters in Pakistan chant slogans against the satirical French weekly newspaper Charlie Hebdo, during a demonstration in Karachi, Pakistan September 4, 2020. Image Credit: Reuters

Paris/Islamabad: Pakistan summoned the French ambassador in Islamabad on Monday in the latest expression of anger in the Muslim world over France displaying images of the Prophet Mohammed (PBUH) that Muslims consider blasphemous.

The French ambassador in Islamabad was summoned to the foreign ministry there a day after Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan accused Macron of “attacking Islam”. Khan also called on Facebook to ban Islamophobic content on its platform. In a letter, which the Pakistani government posted on Twitter, Imran Khan said that “growing Islamophobia” was encouraging extremism and violence across the world, especially through social media platforms such as Facebook.

In Bangladesh on Monday, protesters unfurled placards with a caricature of French President Emmanuel Macron and the words: “Macron is the enemy of peace”, while over the weekend a group of Kuwaiti retailers removed French products from their shelves.

In Turkey, President Tayyip Erdogan said on Saturday Macron needed mental health help over his attitude towards Muslims, prompting Paris to recall its ambassador in Ankara.

The row has its roots in a knife attack outside a French school on Oct. 16 in which an 18-year-old man of Chechen origin beheaded Samuel Paty, a 47-year-old middle school teacher who had shown pupils cartoons of Prophet Mohammed in a civics lesson.

French officials said the beheading was an attack on the core French value of freedom of expression and defended the right to publish the cartoons.

In the days that follows, the caricatures were projected onto the facade of a building in one city and people displayed them at protests around the country. Macron said he would redouble efforts to stop conservative Islamic beliefs subverting French values.

Boycott calls

But the French response to the teacher’s killing unleashed outrage in several Muslim-majority countries, where people accused France’s rulers of being Islamophobic and needlessly provoking Muslim believers.

Some in the Muslim world have advocated a boycott of French goods. At a supermarket in Kuwait City, shelves previously stocking skincare products made by L’Oreal and sister brand Garnier had been cleared.

The boycott was being enforced by a Kuwaiti co-operative union that groups more than 70 outlets in response to “repeated insults” against the Prophet, the union’s head said. In Saudi Arabia, the Arab world’s largest economy, a hashtag calling for the boycott of French supermarket chain Carrefour was the second most trending on Sunday.

Turkey’s Erdogan - with whom Macron has for years had a fraught relationship - criticised the French president twice over the weekend.

“What is the problem of this person called Macron with Muslims and Islam? Macron needs treatment on a mental level,” Erdogan said in a speech on Saturday.

In response to the expressions of anger, France has stood firm. In a tweet on Sunday, Macron said France respected all differences in a spirit of peace but he also said: “We will not give in, ever.” France’s foreign ministry said the criticism of France was being driven by a radical minority and urged foreign governments to dissociate themselves from boycott calls.

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas backed France on Monday, describing Erdogan’s personal attacks on Macron as a new low.