Hundreds gathered near the French Consulate in Pakistan’s largest city Karachi on Wednesday to protest the rising wave of Islamophobia in the European nation.
Supporters of Jamaat-e-Islami (JI), a mainstream religious party, vehemently denounced French President Emmanuel Macron’s anti-Islam remarks and the insulting caricatures of Islam being publicized in France.
They carried banners and placards with messages such as “Down with Charlie Hebdo,” “Down with France,” and “Sacrilege of Prophet Muhammed (PBUH) is unacceptable” as they marched towards the French consulate in Karachi’s upscale Clifton town.
Read more: ‘Stop barking, French dogs!’: Protests in Pakistan over Charlie Hebdo’s reprint of blasphemous cartoons
In recent weeks, Macron has attacked Islam and the Muslim community, accusing Muslims in France of “separatism” and describing Islam as “a religion in crisis all over the world.”
Charlie Hebdo, a French satirical magazine infamous for printing anti-Islamic caricatures, republished cartoons insulting Islam earlier this year. Police contingents blocked nearby roads with barricades and stopped protesters roughly 200 meters (656 feet) from the heavily guarded French Consulate.
Speaking to Andaolu Agency, JI spokesperson Zahid Askari accused security forces of blocking several city roads to restrict the rally, but said over 1,000 people still managed to gather near the building.
Watching Pakistanis across the spectrum rally against France over political Islam is a depressing reminder of how truly right-wing most of its political class is >
— Myra MacDonald (@myraemacdonald) October 26, 2020
Following talks between the protesters and local administration, JI lawmaker Syed Abdul Rasheed was allowed to hand over a letter with demands to consulate officials. The document conveyed Pakistanis’ anger over the recent move to project the blasphemous caricatures of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) on French government buildings.
That happened on Oct. 21 as part of a tribute to Samuel Paty, a teacher who was beheaded in a Paris suburb earlier this month after showing the cartoons in class during a discussion on freedom of speech.
“We cannot accept attacks on Islam and Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) under the guise of freedom of speech. These have nothing to do with freedom of speech,” Hafiz Naeem-ur-Rehman, JI’s Karachi chief, said at the rally.
Read more: Huge anti-France rally in Bangladesh as Macron backlash widens in the Muslim world
“This is just a smear campaign that is part of the rising tide of Islamophobia in the Western world, mainly Europe.” He urged the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) and all Muslim world leaders to take a “joint and strong” stand against France and other countries guilty of such acts.
Otherwise, the Muslim world will never forgive you, he warned. Rehman also demanded the expulsion of the French ambassador to Pakistan.
Iranians protest against France
Large numbers of university students gathered in front of France’s embassy in the Iranian capital Wednesday to protest against recent blasphemous remarks by French officials against Islam.
They carried placards and banners with strong messages and chanted slogans against French President Emmanuel Macron. The peaceful demonstration continued for a few hours, during which the protestors demanded an unconditional apology from Macron and other French officials.
They also called for the expulsion of the French ambassador in Tehran and a boycott of French products as a mark of protest against the complete disregard for the religious sentiments of Muslims.
“They keep doing it and we keep ignoring it. But now is the time to take a stand and teach them a good lesson,” Reza Alaavi, a student at Tehran University and one of the organizers, told Anadolu Agency.
He said all Muslims across the world are united on this, and it is a “good opportunity” to “fight the Islamophobia and hatred against Muslims.”
The protestors also changed the name of the street in front of the French embassy from Neauphle-le-Chateau Street to Mohammad Rasolallah Street.
The street had been named after a small village in northern France where Iran’s founder, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, spent a year in exile in 1978 after being deported from Iraq.
Alaavi said a formal application would soon be submitted at Tehran Municipality to change the street’s name to Mohammad Rasolallah Street.
Outrage has been growing in Iran over Macron’s Islamophobic remarks, with people demanding the expulsion of the French envoy and a boycott of French products.
On Tuesday, the French charge d’affaires in Tehran was summoned by the Foreign Ministry to lodge a formal protest against the “unacceptable actions” of French authorities.
Many senior Iranian officials including President Hassan Rouhani, Foreign Minister Javad Zarif, Chief Justice Ebrahim Raisi, Parliament speaker Baqer Qalibaf, National Security Council head Ali Shamkhani and the Supreme Leader’s top advisor Ali Akbar Velayati have issued statements denouncing French officials for fueling Islamophobia.
Anadolu with additional input by GVS News Desk