France on Tuesday urged its citizens to be cautious and avoid mass gatherings in countries that have announced boycotts of French products in a protest against perceived anti-Muslim bias from Paris.
Muslims have reacted angrily to French President Emmanuel Macron’s defense of free speech following the beheading of a history teacher who had shown his students cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed.
Tens of thousands marched on Tuesday in the Bangladeshi capital, Dhaka, while in Syria protesters have burned pictures of Macron and in Libya they torched French flags.
“In several countries in recent days, there have been calls for a boycott of French products, particularly foodstuff, and more generally calls to protest against France,” the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs said on its Web site. “It is advisable to avoid areas where demonstrations are held, to stay away from gatherings, and to follow the guidance of the relevant French embassy or consulate.”
“It is recommended to be most vigilant, especially when traveling, and in places frequented by tourists and expatriate communities,” it said.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has led the charge against Macron, backing calls in the Islamic world to boycott French goods.
Depictions of Mohammed are considered offensive by many Muslims, but in France such cartoons have become synonymous with freedom of expression and a secular tradition dating back to the French Revolution.
In the aftermath of teacher Samuel Paty’s death, Macron vowed that the country “will not give up cartoons.”
Publication of the same drawings had sparked the 2015 killing of cartoonists and others at the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, the beginning of a spate of deadly terror attacks on French soil.
Earlier this month, Macron had unveiled a plan to defend France’s secular values against a trend of “Islamist separatism” and described Islam as a religion “in crisis.”
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