French products being removed from supermarket shelves in Kuwait Image Credit: Social Media

France on Sunday urged Arab countries to end calls for a boycott of its goods in protest at President Emmanuel Macron's defence of the right to show cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed (PBUH).

The French foreign affairs ministry said in a statement released on Sunday that in recent days there had been calls to boycott French products, notably food products, in several Middle Eastern countries as well as calls for demonstrations against France over the publication of satirical cartoons.

Some supermarket shelves had been stripped of French products in Jordan, Qatar and Kuwait by Sunday. French-made hair and beauty items, were no longer on display. In Kuwait, a major retail union has ordered a boycott of French goods. The non-governmental Union of Consumer Co-operative Societies said it had issued the directive in response to "repeated insults" against the Prophet.

"These calls for boycott are baseless and should stop immediately, as well as all attacks against our country, which are being pushed by a radical minority," the statement said. On Sunday, Macron said in a tweet: "We will not give in, ever" to radicals. "We do not accept hate speech and defend reasonable debate," the French leader added.

A hashtag calling for the boycott of French supermarket chain Carrefour was the second-most trending topic in Saudi Arabia. Meanwhile, protests have been seen in Libya, Syria and the Gaza Strip. The backlash stems from comments made by Macron after the gruesome murder of a French teacher who showed the cartoons. Muslims see any depiction of the Prophet or God as blasphemous. The president said the teacher, Samuel Paty, "was killed because radicals want our future", but France would "not give up our cartoons".

Political leaders in Turkey and Pakistan have attacked Macron, accusing him of not respecting "freedom of belief" and marginalising the millions of Muslims in France. On Sunday, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan suggested, for a second time, that Macron should seek "mental checks" for his views on Islam. Similar comments prompted France to recall its ambassador to Turkey for consultations on Saturday.

In a chain of back-and-forth communications, quickly rising temperatures and French concern over the ramifications of its policies on free expression, Macron added one more, tweeting Sunday night, in English and Arabic, ``We will not give in, ever.'' But he also affirmed, ``We respect all difference in a spirit of peace.'' Another presidential tweet said in bold print ``We are ONE.'' In a recent count, the Arabic version had 28,000 comments - many of them insulting. They included pictures of Macron with a shoe stamped on his face.

The French Foreign Ministry said in a statement Sunday evening that its diplomats were mobilizing to ask countries where boycotts were being organized or hate calls issued not to back them, and to provide assurances that French citizens would be safe.

Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan tweeted on Sunday that Macron chose ``to encourage Islamophobia by attacking Islam rather than the terrorists'' and ``to deliberately provoke Muslims, including his own citizens.''

The 57-nation Organization of Islamic Cooperation, headquartered in Saudi Arabia, on Friday condemned the "ongoing practice of running satirical caricatures depicting the Prophet Muhammad'' and "will continue to decry justification for blasphemy of any religion in the name of freedom of expression.''

Unlike Turkey, the organization had earlier condemned the slaying of the French teacher. Samuel Paty, was beheaded while leaving school in a Paris suburb. The 18-year-old suspect in the killing, who had become radicalized, was shot to death by police.