Thousands of Bangladeshis rally against France

France considers religious satire to be among the kinds of speech that fall under the freedom of expression

Dhaka: About 10,000 Bangladeshis from an Islamist group marched through the nation’s capital on Tuesday to denounce the display of caricatures of Islam’s Prophet Muhammad in France, while the group’s leader urged Muslims around the world to boycott French products.

The protesters from Islami Andolon Bangladesh, a group that advocates for the introduction of Islamic law in the Muslim-majority country, carried banners and placards reading All Muslims of the world, unite and Boycott France.

They also carried a large cut-out of a photo of French President Emmanuel Macron and hung shoes around its neck.

Muslim-majority countries have been outraged by Macron’s remarks last week in which he refused to condemn the publication or show of caricatures of Prophet Muhammad.

An 18-year-old of Chechen origin is accused of the October 16 beheading near Paris of a French teacher who had shown caricatures of Prophet Muhammad.

France considers religious satire to be among the kinds of speech that fall under the freedom of expression, while many Muslims consider any perceived attack on their prophet as a grave offence.

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The protesters gathered in the morning in front of Bangladesh’s main Baitul Mokarram Mosque in Dhaka, the capital, and later started marching toward the French Embassy, which is located a few kilometres away from the mosque. But police intercepted the procession on its way and it ended peacefully.

Rezaul Karim, the head of Islami Andolon Bangladesh, urged France to refrain from displaying any caricatures of Prophet Muhammad.

We, the Muslims, never did caricatures of other religious leaders. That’s history. Because the person who taught us is Prophet Muhammad,” Karim said. Allah sent the Prophet Muhammad as an ambassador of peace. … Macron and his associates did not learn anything from history. You should be ashamed.

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I call upon all the Muslims of the world to boycott all products of France. We have to give them a good lesson, he told his supporters.

Karim said Macron should be treated for what he said was his mental illness and called on the United Nations to punish France.

He also criticised Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina for not saying anything against France or Macron. You are a Muslim, to get votes you use them, but now why are you so silent? he said.

While leaders of many countries, including Pakistan and Turkey, have openly criticised French policy, Hasina has yet to officially comment.

Bangladesh is a Muslim-majority nation of 160 million people and is governed by a secular constitution. But dozens of groups, including Islami Andolon Bangladesh, have long been demanding the introduction of Sharia law in the country.

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