NICE (France) • French President Emmanuel Macron told Arab broadcaster Al-Jazeera yesterday that he understood Muslim feelings towards cartoons of Prophet Muhammad and explained that his remarks have been distorted to look as if he is supportive of offensive caricatures of the Prophet.
Mr Macron had pledged to crack down on Islamist radicals and said France would not "give up" the caricatures last Wednesday at a memorial service for Mr Samuel Paty, a school teacher in a Paris suburb who was beheaded by an 18-year-old Chechen on Oct 16.
Mr Paty had shown his students cartoons of Prophet Muhammad in a class on freedom of expression.
Many Muslims across the world were outraged by Mr Macron, who was seen to be defending the offensive caricatures. And on Thursday, a Tunisian Muslim migrant killed three people in a terror attack on a church in Nice.
Mr Macron, who had earlier said Islam faced a "crisis", told Al-Jazeera that his caricature remarks have been distorted to make it appear as though he supports the cartoons, which he said were published by independent media.
France is facing calls across the Muslim world for a boycott of its products, while Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said the French leader needs to undergo a mental examination.
In Pakistan, Bangladesh and the Palestinian territories, tens of thousands of Muslims staged anti-French protests after Friday prayers.
In Islamabad, police briefly fired tear gas at protesters who broke through security blockades in a failed attempt to demonstrate at the French embassy.
In Bangladesh, marchers in the capital Dhaka chanted "Boycott French products" and carried banners calling Mr Macron "the world's biggest terrorist". Protests also took place in India, Lebanon and Somalia.
Indonesian President Joko Widodo yesterday condemned what he called "terrorist" attacks in France, but warned that freedom of speech that injures the "sacred values and symbol of religion is so wrong" and "shouldn't be justified".
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau defended free speech on Friday, but said it should not "arbitrarily and needlessly hurt" people with whom "we are sharing a society and a planet".
French authorities said that they expected more attacks on France and any symbol of the republic or Christianity was a potential target.
Thousands of soldiers were deployed to protect places of worship and schools as the nation was at its highest level of security alert.