Tens of thousands join anti-France demonstration in Bangladesh

Thousands of supporters of the Islamic group Hefazat-e-Islam (Protectors of Islam) marched towards the French embassy in Dhaka to protest against remarks by French President Emmanuel Macron in the controversy about cartoons of the Prophet Mohammad.
   Many people came from towns outside Dhaka to take part in the rally.
Many people came from towns outside Dhaka to take part in the rally.PHOTO: REUTERS

DHAKA • More than 50,000 people took part yesterday in Bangladesh's biggest demonstration yet over French President Emmanuel Macron's defence of the right to publish cartoons of Prophet Muhammad.

The rally, which started at Bangladesh's biggest mosque, was prevented from getting close to the French embassy where security has been stepped up amid mounting tensions over Mr Macron's comments.

The march was more than two kilometres long and crowds - ignoring coronavirus social distancing rules - carried effigies of Mr Macron, caricatures and a fake coffin for the French president.

Police estimated 50,000 people took part in the third major anti-France protest in the past week while organisers said there were more than 100,000.

Protesters chanted "We are all soldiers of the prophet", "We are not afraid of bullets or bombs" and "Macron, you are in danger". They burned an effigy of the French leader.

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

Protests have been held in many Muslim-majority countries after Mr Macron defended France's freedom of speech laws, in the wake of the killing of a teacher who had shown caricatures of the Prophet to his class.

Islam forbids any depictions of Prophet Muhammad.

About 3,000 people also demonstrated yesterday outside the French embassy in Jakarta in Indonesia - the world's biggest Muslim majority nation, police say.

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

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

Organisers said police stopped thousands of others from joining the rally by stopping buses, trucks and cars from entering the capital.

Mr Junaid Babunagari, the firebrand deputy chief of Hefazat, called on Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina to make the Bangladesh Parliament condemn Mr 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 so far not commented on France or the protests.

Other Hefazat leaders said Mr Macron must apologise to Muslims around the world.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 03, 2020, with the headline 'Tens of thousands join anti-France demonstration in Bangladesh'. Print Edition | Subscribe