Thousands of Muslims protest French cartoons
Leader of Iran’s Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei urged the French youths to question the excuse underpinning French President Emanuel Macron’s support for insult against the Prophet of Islam in the name of “free speech.”
Addressing the youths in a statement on Wednesday, the Leader advised, “Ask your president why he supports insulting God’s Messenger in the name of freedom of expression.”
“Does freedom of expression mean insulting, especially a sacred personage?” Ayatollah Khamenei asked.
Earlier this month, Macron supported a French teacher’s displaying of cartoons insulting Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) in his class.
“France will never renounce caricatures,” Macron declared, defending the teacher for “promoting freedom.”
Those images, republished by the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo to mark the opening of the trial for the deadly 2015 attack against the publication, have stirred the ire of Muslims across the world who consider depictions of the Prophet blasphemous.
The teacher, Samuel Paty, was murdered by an 18-year-old Chechen assailant. Commenting on the attack, Macron described Islam as a religion “in crisis” worldwide.
Macron insisted on his position by tweeting, “We will not give in, ever.”
Iran’s Leader called the French statesman’s insolence a “stupid act” that served to affront the reason of the very people, who have voted him to power.
Ayatollah Khamenei, meanwhile, asked how come – from France’s perspective – questioning the Holocaust was “a crime” that warranted imprisonment, while insulting the Prophet could be condoned.
“The next question to ask is: Why is it a crime to raise doubts about the Holocaust? Why should anyone who writes about such doubts be imprisoned while insulting the Prophet (PBUH) is allowed?”
Instagram blocked the French account of Ayatollah Khamenei following his message about Islamophobic campaign in France.
The new French language account of the Leader’s website has now been launched at the address instagram.com/fr.khamenei.ir to replace the blocked page.
Macron’s effrontery has opened the floodgates of backlash from Muslims around the world, with numerous Muslim states and peoples issuing condemnatory statements or rising in thousands-strong protests.
Amid the global outrage, the French city of Nice became the scene of a deadly knife attack on Thursday, in which three people, including a woman, were killed in a church by a Tunisian man. Macron described the incident as an "Islamic terrorist attack".
The attacker, Ibrahim Issaoui, was seriously wounded by police and hospitalized in life-threatening condition, authorities said.
Investigations led to the arrest of a second suspect. The new suspect is a 47-year-old man believed to have been in contact with the attacker the night before the attack, according to a judicial official.
Hours later, Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif took to his Twitter page and “strongly condemned” the terrorist attack in Nice.
“This escalating vicious cycle – hate speech, provocations & violence – must be replaced by reason & sanity,” he wrote.
“We should recognize that radicalism only breeds more radicalism, and peace cannot be achieved with ugly provocations,” Zarif noted.
Thousands of Muslims in Pakistan poured out of prayer services to join anti-France protests on Friday, as the French president’s vow to protect the right to caricature the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) continues to roil the Muslim world.
Worshippers celebrating the birth anniversary of the Prophet, took to the streets in the eastern city of Lahore. Crowds led by Islamic parties chanted anti-France slogans and raised banners.
Dozens of people furiously stomped on French flags and cried for the boycott of French products. In Multan, a city in Pakistan's eastern Punjab Province, thousands burned an effigy of Macron and demanded that Pakistan sever ties with France.
More gatherings were also held in Pakistan, including the capital Islamabad, where police were out in force to prevent demonstrations outside the French Embassy.
In Al-Quds, Palestinians protested against Macron outside the Al-Aqsa Mosque, the third holiest site in Islam, to observe a “Friday of Rage” across the Israeli-occupied territories
They chanted, “With our souls and with our blood we sacrifice for our Prophet Muhammad (PBUH).” Some youths scuffled with Israeli forces as they exited the holy site into the Old City.
Other protests were staged expected across the region, including in Lebanon and the Gaza Strip.
In Afghanistan, members of the Islamic party Hezb-i-Islami set the French flag ablaze.
Over the past week, protests and calls to boycott French products have spread rapidly from Bangladesh to Pakistan to Kuwait. Social media has been pulsing with anti-France hashtags. Muslim leaders have loudly criticized France for what they see as the government’s provocative and anti-Muslim stance.
Press TV and AP contributed to this story.