South Asia witnesses mass protests as Muslim anger mounts against France

New Delhi, Oct 30 (efe-epa).- Thousands of people rallied in Pakistan, Bangladesh, Afghanistan and India on Friday to protest French President Emmanuel Macron’s supposedly anti-Islam remarks in defending the alleged blasphemous caricatures of Prophet Muhammad.

The protests on Eid-e-Milad or Mawlid, the birthday of Muhammad – the most revered figure in Islam – were in continuation of similar gatherings in predominantly Islamic countries amid rising tensions between France and the Muslims.

The rallies were peaceful in South Asia, which houses 600 million Muslims, the largest concentration of the followers of Islam in any region in the world.

In Pakistan, thousands of Muslims took to streets after Friday prayers, shouting pro-Islam slogans.

About a thousand protesters tried to march towards the French embassy in Islamabad but the police stopped them from reaching the diplomatic enclave.

The protesters tried to resist, sparking minor clashes with the police. Several protesters carried Macron’s posters, defaced with footprints.

The tension between the angry protesters and the police was clear. An Islamist shouted at them: “You are not a Muslim.”

Similar protests were also held in the cities of Karachi, Lahore, and Peshawar cities.

A supermarket in Peshawar city has announced a boycott of French products. The store owner has put Macron’s picture at the entrance for customers to step on when they enter.

Tens of thousands of Muslims also protested in Bangladesh.

Police said some 20,000 protesters joined the protest in the capital Dhaka after Friday prayers under the banner of two Islamists groups – Combined Islamic Parties and Like-minded Islamic Parties.

The protest ended peacefully, said Abu Bakar Siddiq, the officer-in-charge of the Paltan police station.

Protesters demanded Macron tender an unconditional apology and the Bangladesh government summon the French ambassador in Dhaka to seek an explanation.

“We urge the people to boycott French products,” said Shahidul Islam Kabir, a protester, and leader of Islami Andolon Bangladesh.

The protesters burnt the effigy of Macron after a large procession near the Baitul Mukarram mosque.

Kabir said demonstrations were also held in many other mosques across the country.

Hardline Islamist group Hefazat-e-Islam held a protest in the southern city of Chittagong.

Hefazat spokesperson Azizul Islam said they urged Bangladesh to end diplomatic ties with France if Macron refused to apologize.

In Afghanistan, mostly youth and Islamic clerics gathered for a protest in Kabul.

The protest that began shortly after Friday prayers continued for nearly two hours.

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