TEHRAN (Dispatches) – Dozens of Iranians gathered in protest in front of the French embassy in Tehran to condemn France’s defense of the publication of blasphemous cartoons against Islam. Some held up placards with red crosses plastered on images of French goods.
Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani on Wednesday warned that insulting the Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon Him) may encourage "violence and bloodshed” following Paris’ defense of the publication of blasphemous cartoons.
"Insulting the prophet is no achievement. It’s immoral. It’s encouraging violence,” Rouhani said in a televised speech during the weekly cabinet meeting.
"It’s a surprise that this would come from those claiming culture and democracy, that they would somehow, even if unintentionally, encourage violence and bloodshed,” he added.
French President Emmanuel Macron has strongly defended the right to mock Islam following the murder of a French schoolteacher who had shown his class blasphemous cartoons of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH).
Macron’s comments triggered protests and a call to boycott French goods in some Muslim-majority countries.
Rouhani said that "the West should understand that ... insulting the Prophet is insulting all Muslims, all prophets, all human values, and trampling ethics”.
He added that "every single European is in debt to the Prophet, as he was the teacher of humanity”.
Rouhani also called on the West to "stop interfering in Muslims’ internal affairs” if it "truly seeks to achieve peace, equality, calm and security in today’s societies”.
Iran on Tuesday summoned a senior French envoy, the charge d’affaires, to protest the "unacceptable behavior of the French authorities”, after a chorus of criticism aimed at Macron by top Iranian officials in recent days.
Turkey’s president said on Wednesday that Western countries mocking Islam wanted to "relaunch the Crusades”.
In a speech to lawmakers of his AK Party in parliament, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said that standing against attacks on the Prophet was "an issue of honor for us”.
In a sign of spreading anger at France’s defense of the publication of the cartoons, demonstrators denounced France in street protests in several Muslim-majority countries.
"France down, it insulted our Prophet,” protesters shouted in the Somali capital Mogadishu.
The West was "once again headed to a period of barbarity”, Erdogan said, describing colonial powers as "murderers” for their record in Africa and the Middle East.
"They literally want to relaunch the Crusades. Since the Crusades, the seeds of evil and hatred have started falling on these (Muslim) lands and that’s when peace was disrupted.”
France’s foreign ministry on Tuesday issued safety advice to French citizens in Indonesia, Turkey, Bangladesh, Iraq and Mauritania, advising them to exercise caution. They were told to stay away
from any protests over the cartoons and avoid any public gatherings.
In Cairo, Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi said freedom of expression should stop if it offended more than 1.5 billion people.
The Grand Imam of Egypt’s Al-Azhar university, one of the world’s most eminent seats of Sunni Muslim learning, urged the international community to criminalize "anti-Muslim” actions.
In the Somali capital Mogadishu, hundreds of mostly youthful demonstrators gathered at a busy junction leading to the airport, chanting anti-French slogans and burning French flags.
They were responding to calls by clerics to come out and condemn France and boycott French products.
"We are going to use our muscles to defend Islam,” a middle-aged man, Mohamed Ahmed, who was at the demonstration, told Reuters when asked why he was participating. "We ask people to burn every product of France they come across.”
In Dhaka, hundreds of Bangladeshi Muslims took to the streets of the capital for a third consecutive day, chanting slogans such as "Boycott French products” and burning effigies of Macron, whom they described as an enemy of Islam.
At a much larger protest on Tuesday in Dhaka, thousands had turned out for a protest carrying banners such as "Stop Islamophobia”, "Boycott France” and "Lay siege to the French Embassy in Dhaka”.
Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan on Wednesday wrote to the leaders of Muslim countries calling on them to act together against Islamophobia.
"The recent statements at the leadership level and incidents of desecration of the Holy Qur’an are a reflection of the increase in Islamophobia that is spreading in European countries,” the letter said.
In a speech in Lahore on Wednesday, Khan added that the lives of Muslims have been made difficult in France, and Western countries should consider the sensitivities of devotees.
Protests have taken place across Pakistan this week, including in the port city of Karachi on Wednesday.
Khan’s office earlier wrote a letter to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg asking the social media giant to take down Islamophobic content.