Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has done his best to stoke religious tensions over Charlie Hebdo cartoons that mock the founder of Islam Muhammad, especially after the recent terrorist attacks in France were condemned by Macron as ” Islamist terrorism ”.
Macron had also said Islam is “in crisis” after clearly Islamic-inspired killings left several dead and injured this month – the latest being the shooting of a Greek Orthodox priest in Lyon who was left with fatal injuries.
Earlier this week, Erdogan compared him to Europe wanting “Relaunch the crusades” and that hatred of Islam “spreads like cancer”. He had told the parliamentary group of the ruling Justice and Development (AK) party: “Unfortunately, we are going through a period when hostility towards Islam, Muslims and disrespect for the Prophet Muhammad is spreading like cancer, especially among European leaders, ”According to Turkish media.
Mass protests have erupted in capitals across the Middle East, from Pakistan to Afghanistan to Lebanon, often outside the local French embassy.
Unrest was particularly seen in Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip on Friday after an influential cleric who moved to the Palestinian Islamic Supreme Council, Sheikh Ikrima Sabri, earlier called for a “day of rage” against France and Europe’s “attempts to harm” the prophet Muhammad.
The cleric is a senior preacher of the al-Aqsa mosque and told his followers to “reject the offensive designs of the Prophet Muhammad” and further “express their rejection of these uncivilized transgressions”. He said that “the offensive cartoons contradict freedom of speech and expression” and aim to ridicule and insult Islam.
There were clashes with police in Jerusalem on Friday, but protests do not appear to have spread as widely into the Palestinian territories as expected. The Associated Press detailed “Rabies Day” as follows:
Hundreds of Palestinians also protested against Macron outside the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem, Islam’s third holiest site., chanting: “With our souls and with our blood we sacrifice for our prophet, Muhammad.” Some young people clashed with the Israeli police as they exited the plaza in the old city. Israeli police said they broke up the gathering and detained three people.
Dozens more have taken place in the Gaza Strip, where the militant group Hamas has organized anti-France rallies in mosques in the territory it controls.
Fathi Hammad, a Hamas official, addressed a protest at Jabaliya refugee camp, swearing “To stand together to face this criminal offensive which harms the faith of approximately two billion Muslims”, referring to representations of the Muslim prophet. He reiterated the call by the Hamas authorities to the Palestinians to boycott all French products.
Meanwhile, France continues to be on high alert, with security forces on the lookout for further terrorist attacks amid the tension that appears to be a repeat of the Charlie Hebdo massacre in 2015.
The government also issued a travel advisory for French citizens abroad, warning them of the potential for random retaliatory attacks.
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