French President Emmanuel Macron takes part in a video conference at the Elysee Palace in Paris, France, October 29, 2020. — AFP
LONDON: Several Pakistani students belonging to various universities in London gathered outside the French Embassy in London to register a protest against French President Emmanuel Macron.
Macron, who had said he or his officials did not support the cartoons in a recent interview, had warned that though he understands Muslims are hurt by the publication of offensive cartoons of Holy Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), France would not tolerate violence.
“So I understand and respect that people could be shocked by these cartoons, but I will never accept that one can justify physical violence over these cartoons, and I will always defend the freedom in my country to write, to think, to draw,” he had said in an interview to Al-Jazeera.
The French president’s earlier comments, in which he had said that Islam was “in crisis all over the world”, had angered Muslims and led to protests around the world.
In a similar manner, the Pakistani students protested against the disrespect of their faith and chanted slogans against France and Macron outside the French embassy in London.
“We are here to protest against the inappropriate cartoons published in France and the justification provided by French President Emmanuel Macron. Macron has hurt over a billion Muslims by his irresponsible behaviour,” Yahya Sardar Sahi said.
Read more: French President Macron seeks to calm tensions with Muslim community
Sahi, who is City University’s Pakistani Society president, claimed that Macron had exhibited irresponsible behaviour by choosing to justify the cartoons which are considered deeply offensive to Muslims.
Angry at the French president, protestors chanted slogans including “shame Macron shame”.
Speaking to Geo.tv, Raja Abdul Wassay, who has recently been elected as the President of Brunel University’s Pakistani Society said, “We are here to protest against the offensive cartoons published in France against our Holy Prophet (PBUH). We won’t accept any insult to our religion.”
Protestors also condemned the killings of Samuel Patty, the history teacher, who was beheaded by a Chechen extremist after he showed the cartoons in his class.
The brutal killings at a church in Nice were also criticised by protestors who vowed that Islam is a religion of peace.
Sahi highlighted that protesting against the murders was as important as protesting against the cartoons.
“The second and equally important purpose is raising a voice against the unjustified killings of innocent people in France in the aftermath of this controversy. We strongly condemn the meaningless killings of innocent people in Nice and Paris and we want to highlight the fact that Islam is a religion of peace, it teaches us harmony,” Sahi said.
Macron had tried to diffuse the situation by distancing himself from the cartoons and explaining that France had nothing to do with them but calls for the boycott of French goods as well protests continued in the Muslim world and beyond.
Ali Chaudhry, a student of Brunel University, said there was a difference between freedom of speech and hate speech, and French President Emmanuel Macron needed to understand this.