Protests continue across the Muslim world over French President Emmanuel Macron’s controversial remarks on Islam and Muslims, as well as his defence of republishing the Charlie Hebdo caricatures of Prophet Muhammad.

Supporters and activists of Hefazat-e-Islam Bangladesh, a conservative hardline political party, at a protest calling for the boycott of French products and denouncing the French president for defending publication of Prophet Muhammed's caricatures, in Dhaka, Bangladesh, on November 2, 2020.
Supporters and activists of Hefazat-e-Islam Bangladesh, a conservative hardline political party, at a protest calling for the boycott of French products and denouncing the French president for defending publication of Prophet Muhammed's caricatures, in Dhaka, Bangladesh, on November 2, 2020. (Reuters)

More than 50,000 people have participated in the biggest demonstration yet in Bangladesh over the publication of Prophet Muhammad's caricatures in France.

The rally which started at Bangladesh's biggest mosque was stopped from getting close to the French embassy where security has been stepped up amid mounting tensions over French President Emmanuel Macron's comments.

The march was more than two kilometres long and crowds – ignoring coronavirus social distancing rules – carried effigies of Macron, caricatures and a fake coffin for the French president.

Police estimated some 50,000 people took part in the third major anti-France protest in the past week while organisers said there were more than 100,000.

The protests were triggered after Macron defended the publication of the caricatures of Prophet Muhammad after a school teacher was decapitated in Paris for showing them to his students in a class. Depicting prophets is strictly avoided in Islam. 

READ MORE: Muslims' protests continue against France as Macron tries to calm anger

Muslims' objections to caricatures published in France centre around the complaint that the intention was to offend the community. French Muslims, in particular, see the cartoons in the larger context of policies seeking to repress expressions of Islam in France. 

'Soldiers of the Prophet'

Protesters chanted "We are all soldiers of the Prophet", "We are not afraid of bullets or bombs" and "Macron, you are in danger." They burned one effigy of the French leader.

Police put up a barbed wire barricade across a major road to stop the demonstrators getting close to Dhaka's embassy district and the event broke up without trouble.

Monday's rally in Bangladesh was called by Hefazat-i-Islami, one of the biggest hardline religious political groups in the country of 168 million people.

Organisers said police had prevented thousands of others from joining the rally by stopping buses, trucks, and cars from entering the capital.

Junaid Babunagari, the firebrand deputy chief of Hezafat, called on Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina to make the Bangladesh parliament condemn Macron.

"I call on traders to throw away French products. I ask the UN to take stern action against France," he told the rally.

Bangladesh's government has so far not commented on France or the protests.

Other Hefazat leaders said Macron must apologise to Muslims around the world.

READ MORE: Is Macron moving to the far-right for political survival?

Protesters take part in an anti-France demonstration in Dhaka on November 2, 2020.
Protesters take part in an anti-France demonstration in Dhaka on November 2, 2020. (AFP)

Protest in Indonesia

Around 3,000 people also demonstrated on Monday outside the French embassy in Jakarta in Indonesia – the world's biggest Muslim majority nation – according to police.

Waving white flags bearing the Islamic declaration of faith, demonstrators, many wearing white Islamic robes, filled a major thoroughfare in the capital city. 

Authorities blocked streets leading to the embassy where more than 1,000 police and soldiers were deployed in and around the building barricaded with razor wire.

The protesters chanted “God is Great” and “Boycott French products” as they marched. Their banners and placards slammed French President Emmanuel Macron, and some protesters stomped on Macron posters in the blocked streets, while others voiced their anger by burning portraits of Macron.

Smaller protests also occurred in other Indonesian cities, including in Surabaya, Makassar, Medan and Bandung.

On Saturday, Indonesian President Joko Widodo strongly condemned terrorist attacks in Paris and Nice as well as remarks by Macron that were deemed offensive toward Islam and Muslims.

READ MORE: Is France’s racism problem rooted in denial and discrimination?

'Big mistake'

Widodo said freedom of expression that tarnishes the honour, sanctity and sacredness of religious values and symbols could not be justified and must be stopped.

“Linking religion with terrorist acts is a big mistake,” Widodo said. “Terrorism is terrorism, terrorists are terrorists, terrorism has nothing to do with any religion.”

Protest organiser Slamet Ma’arif told the crowd, including members of the Islamic Defenders Front vigilante group, that Macron was being aggressively hostile to Islam and called for a boycott on French products.

Monday's protests ended peacefully in the afternoon.

"Islam is a religion which is experiencing a crisis today, all over the world," Macron had said in his speech after the school teacher's beheading.

The French Embassy claims Macron made a distinction between Islam and militancy.

“President Emmanuel Macron made it clear that there was no intention at all to generalise, and clearly distinguished between the majority of French Muslims and the militant, separatist minority that is hostile to the values of the French Republic,” the embassy’s statement said.

Source: TRTWorld and agencies