TEHRAN/DHAKA (Dispatches) -- Anger surged on Tuesday over France’s defense of the publication of cartoons blaspheming Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon Him), with new calls for a boycott of French products.
Iran summoned French charge d’affaires Florent Aydalot "in protest against the French authorities’ insistence on supporting the publication of cartoons insulting the Prophet, peace be upon him,” a foreign ministry statement in Tehran said.
The ministry said "the unacceptable behavior of the French authorities” had "hurt the feelings of millions of Muslims in Europe and the world”.
"Any insult and disrespect toward the Prophet of Islam and Islamic values are strongly condemned,” it added.
French President Emmanuel Macron has brazenly defended a French schoolteacher who had shown his class the cartoons, prompting a man in Paris to murder him.
Iran’s Foreign Minister Muhammad Javad Zarif said that Macron’s remarks only fuelled "extremism” and that insulting all Muslims "for the abhorrent crimes of such extremists is an opportunistic abuse of freedom of speech.”
His ministry said it was "regrettable to incite Islamophobia and spread hatred in the name of freedom of expression, which should serve communication, empathy and coexistence.”
Several Iranian newspapers condemned Macron on Tuesday, including the Javan daily which on its front page ran a picture of a smiling Macron with the headline "Evil!” The Kayhan daily called for the French ambassador to be expelled "in response to Macron’s insolence”.
And the Vatan-e Emrooz devoted most of its front page to a cartoon depicting Macron as a satan-like figure under the headline "The Paris Devil”.
In Dhaka, tens of thousands of protesters marched through the Bangladesh capital on Tuesday calling for a boycott of French products and burning an effigy of President Macron.
Police estimated more than 40,000 people took part in the march that was halted before it could get close to the French embassy in Dhaka.
Protesters chanting "Boycott French products” and calling for Macron to be punished choked the streets.
Before breaking up, the protesters doused an effigy with a Macron face in kerosene and set it ablaze, shouting anti-French slogans.
The rally was organized by Islami Andolan Bangladesh, one of the largest parties in the Muslim majority country of 168 million people. The party has called for more nationwide protests on Thursday and Friday.
"Macron is one of the few leaders who worship Satan,” Ataur Rahman, a senior Islami Andolon leader, told the rally.
Rahman called on the Bangladesh government to expel the French ambassador while another leader said activists would "tear down every brick” of the embassy if the envoy was not ordered out.
"France is the enemy of Muslims. Those who represent them are also our enemies,” said Nesar Uddin, another leader from the group.
Police said that extra forces were
patrolling around the French embassy in the diplomatic district.
Teacher Samuel Paty was killed by a Chechen teenager on October 16 after showing cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed in a discussion on freedom of speech.
The French president’s comments defending the cartoons have already led to a diplomatic showdown with Turkey and protests in other Muslim majority states.
France is a major trade partner for Bangladesh whose garment factories sell apparel worth billions of dollars to French brands. Lafarge, the world’s top cement maker, is one of the largest French investors in Bangladesh.
France’s foreign ministry on Tuesday issued safety advice to French citizens in Indonesia, Bangladesh, Iraq and Mauritania, advising them to exercise caution. They should stay away from any protests over the cartoons and avoid any public gatherings.
Paris has recalled its ambassador in Ankara, and Pakistan’s parliament on Monday passed a resolution urging the government to recall its envoy from Paris.
French Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin retorted on Tuesday that Turkey, and Pakistan, should not meddle in France’s domestic affairs.
The blasphemous cartoons were first published years ago by a French satirical magazine, whose editorial offices were attacked in 2015 by gunmen who killed 12 people.
Since the murder of the teacher this month, the cartoons have been displayed in France in a further act of provocation, angering Muslims.
Macron has added fuel to the fire, pledging to fight what he has called as "Islamist separatism” in France.
French police and military forces have raided Muslim neighborhoods in Paris and other cities in recent days, storming mosques and homes, which has generated a wave of terror.
Iraqi protesters burned the French flag near the country’s embassy in Baghdad in the latest expression of anger in the Muslim world.
But Saudi rulers appeared to be taking a lukewarm approach to the sacrilege. A Saudi foreign ministry official said on Tuesday the Persian Gulf state condemns all acts of terrorism, an apparent reference to the French teacher’s killing.
However, calls for a boycott of French supermarket chain Carrefour were trending on social media in Saudi Arabia. In Kuwait, some supermarkets have pulled French products.
Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Monday asked his compatriots to stop buying French goods and accused France of pursuing an anti-Islam agenda.
France is a major exporter of grain to mainly-Muslim North Africa, and French companies in the autos and retail sectors also have significant exposure to majority-Muslim countries.
French Trade Minister Franck Riester said it was too early to put a figure on the impact of a boycott campaign but so far it mainly affected French agricultural exports.