Tens of thousands take part in Bangladesh anti-France rally

Sam JAHAN
·3-min read
Police estimated some 50,000 people took part in the third major anti-France protest in Bangladesh in the past week

Tens of thousands take part in Bangladesh anti-France rally

Police estimated some 50,000 people took part in the third major anti-France protest in Bangladesh in the past week

Tens of thousands of Bangladeshis took to the streets of the capital Monday to call for action against France, the latest protest by Muslims opposed to French President Emmanuel Macron's defence of the right to publish cartoons depicting the Prophet Mohammed.

France has been on edge since September when Charlie Hebdo weekly republished cartoons of the prophet, which was followed by an attack outside its former offices, the beheading of a teacher and an attack on a church in Nice.

President Emmanuel Macron sought to calm flaring tensions with Muslims around the world on Saturday, telling an Arab TV channel he understood the cartoons could be shocking -- while lashing out at "lies" that the French state was behind them.

But protesters in Bangladesh -- the world's fourth most-populous Muslim nation -- have linked the republication to Macron and the state and have turned out in huge numbers to protest.  

Police said more than 50,000 people marched Monday -- ignoring coronavirus social distancing rules -- while carrying effigies of the French president and a coffin.

Organisers said more than 100,000 people took part.

"We are all soldiers of the prophet," protesters chanted, "we are not afraid of bullets or bombs."

- Embassy protected -

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

Demonstrations have been held in many Muslim majority countries since Macron defended France's freedom of speech laws.

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

Protesters burned pictures of Macron and waved placards emblazoned with a shoeprint on his face and others depicting the French leader with devil horns. 

Islam forbids any depictions of Mohammed.

Monday's rally in Bangladesh was called by Hefazat-e-Islam, one of the biggest radical Muslim political groups in the country of 168 million people.

Junaid Babunagari, the firebrand deputy chief of Hezafat, demanded that Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina 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 not commented on Macron's comments which have sparked some community tensions in the country. 

About 500 people attacked and burned down Hindu houses in the eastern town of Bhangura late Sunday after a Hindu made comments on Facebook praising Macron's remarks, police told AFP.

Police said a Hindu man had been arrested after a case of hurting religious sentiments was filed and five Muslims arrested for the attacks on the houses. 

Charlie Hebdo first joined some other European publications by publishing cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed in 2006.

It fell victim to a massacre that killed 12 in 2015 after it reprinted some of the controversial images.

The weekly reprinted those images again last month as a trial began of people accused of complicity in the assault.

A 2013 rally in Dhaka by thousands of Hefazat supporters demanding a blasphemy law ended in unrest in which more than 50 people were killed.  

Militants also staged an attack on a Dhaka cafe in 2016 in which 17 foreigners were killed.

sam-sa/tw/fox