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Palestinians gesture during a protest against comments by French President Emmanuel Macron defending cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad, at the TEmple Mount in the Old City of Jerusalem, on October 30, 2020. (Ahmad GHARABLI / AFP)

Hundreds protest at Temple Mount against Macron, Muhammad cartoons; 3 arrested


Media – Hundreds of people protested at Jerusalem’s Temple Mount on Friday against French President Emmanuel Macron’s vow to protect the right to caricature the Prophet Muhammad, with three arrested after scuffles with police.

The protestors chanted, “with our souls and with our blood we sacrifice for our prophet, Muhammad,” and what Israel Police described as “nationalist slogans.”

Police said they dispersed the “rioters” and arrested three people for disorderly conduct.

Palestinians gesture during a protest against comments by French President Emmanuel Macron defending cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad, at the Temple Mount in the Old City of Jerusalem, on October 30, 2020. (Ahmad GHARABLI / AFP)

Hundreds of Palestinians also reportedly participated in a march condemning Macron’s remarks in Jerusalem’s Kafr Aqab neighborhood and in the neighboring Qalandiya refugee camp.

Demonstrators wore headbands declaring insulting Muhammad to be a red line and waved flags emblazoned with the Islamic declaration of faith.

French President Emmanuel Macron, second left, and Nice mayor Christian Estrosi , third left, meet police officers after a knife attack at Notre Dame church in Nice, southern France, October 29, 2020. (Eric Gaillard/Pool via AP)

The French president’s comments have continued to roil the Muslim world.

An estimated 2,000 worshippers celebrating the Mawlid, the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad, took to the streets in the eastern Pakistan city of Lahore. Crowds led by Islamic parties chanted anti-France slogans, raised banners and clogged major roads en route to a Sufi shrine.

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.

Supporters of the Muslims Students Organization burn a representation of a French national flag and deface images of French President Emmanuel Macron during a protest against the president and against the publishing of caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad they deem blasphemous in Karachi, Pakistan, Oct. 30, 2020 (AP Photo/Fareed Khan)

More gatherings were planned for later Friday in Pakistan, including the capital Islamabad, where police were out in force to prevent possible demonstrations outside the French Embassy. The atmosphere was tense as police positioned shipping containers to block the roads.

Other protests, largely organized by Islamists, are expected across the region, including in Lebanon and the Gaza Strip.

In Afghanistan, members of the Islamist party Hezb-i-Islami set the French flag ablaze. Its leader, Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, warned Macron that if he doesn’t “control the situation, we are going to a third world war and Europe will be responsible.”

The protests come amid rising tensions between France and Muslim-majority nations, which flared up earlier this month when a young Muslim man beheaded a French schoolteacher who had shown caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad in class.

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.

A series of attacks that French authorities have attributed to Muslim extremism ensued.

On Thursday, a knife-wielding Tunisian man carrying a copy of the Quran killed three people at a church in the Mediterranean city of Nice. That same day, a Saudi man stabbed and lightly wounded a security guard at the French consulate in Jiddah, Saudi Arabia, prompting France to urge its citizens there to be on “high alert.”

French policemen and forensic officers work on the scene of the knife attack in front of Notre Dame church, in Nice, France, October 29, 2020. (Daniel Cole/AP)

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, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in particular, have loudly criticized France for what they see as the government’s provocative and anti-Muslim stance.

Thursday’s attack in Nice also drew condemnations from leaders of countries that had voiced outrage over the caricatures, such as Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and Egypt.

In a Friday sermon aired live on Egyptian state TV, the country’s minister of religious endowments appeared to denounce any violent retaliation for the cartoons.

“Love of the prophet cannot be expressed by killing, sabotaging or responding to evil with evil,” said Mohamed Mokhtar Gomaa, addressing dozens of worshippers at a mosque in Egypt’s Delta province of Daqahleya.

Senior Palestinian Authority official Hussein al-Sheikh also condemned the attacks, saying “the murder of innocents is forbidden from the perspective of religion, morality, and humanity.” (News Sources: The Times of Israel).

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