Amid Cartoon Dust-up, Pakistan Calls on Facebook to Ban Islamophobia as It Did Holocaust Denial

Saudi Arabia, Iran and Turkey showed rare unity in their condemnation of over France displaying images of the Prophet Mohammad

Reuters
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Pakistan's Prime Minister Imran Khan speaks to the AP, in Islamabad, Pakistan. March 16, 2020. Khan called for an end to sanctions on Iran which, he said, hampered Tehran’s anti-coronavirus efforts
Pakistan's Prime Minister Imran Khan speaks to the AP, in Islamabad, Pakistan. March 16, 2020. Khan called for an end to sanctions on Iran which, he said, hampered Tehran’s anti-coronavirus effortsCredit: B.K. Bangash,AP
Reuters

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 Mohammad 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 Islamophobia just as Facebook has banned questioning or criticising the holocaust."

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 Mohammad 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 visited by Reuters on Sunday, 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.

Insulting Muslims is an "opportunistic" abuse of free speech, Iran's foreign minister said on Monday, in a rare moment of Saudi-Iranian international agreement.

"Muslims are the primary victims of the 'cult of hatred'," the minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, tweeted, without directly addressing Macron.

"Insulting 1.9B Muslims—& their sanctities—for the abhorrent crimes of such extremists is an opportunistic abuse of freedom of speech. It only fuels extremism," he added.

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.

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