MUSLIMS have taken to the streets across the world to burn French flags and effigies of Emmanuel Macron in a sign of spreading anger over controversial cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed.
Thousands of demonstrators have denounced France in protests in several Muslim countries amid the row over Macron’s defence of the right to publish the Charlie Hebdo cartoons.
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It comes as France was hit by two suspected terror attacks on Thursday which left three people dead – including a woman beheaded in a church by a knifeman shouting “Allahu Akbar”.
Two separate knifemen are understood to have launched attacks in Nice and Avignon just hours apart.
France has raised its alert status to the highest possible level of “terror attack emergency”.
Hundreds of protesters in Tunisia, Pakistan, Israel, Palestine, Russia have taken to the streets to burn pictures of Macron and take a stand against the caricatures.
Demonstrations have also been held in Bangladesh, India and Iran.
Dozens of Iranians gathered in protest in front of the French embassy in Tehran, state media reported.
Some held up placards with red crosses plastered on images of French goods.
In Dhaka, hundreds of Bangladeshi Muslims took to the streets of the capital for another day, chanting slogans such as “Boycott French products” and burning effigies of Macron, who they described as an enemy of Islam.
In the Somali capital Mogadishu, protesters shouted: “France down, it insulted our Prophet.”
The row with France flared after a French teacher who showed pupils cartoons of the Prophet published in Charlie Hebdo was beheaded in France earlier this month.
Samuel Paty, 47, was beheaded by 18-year-old Abdullah Anzorov on October 17 after using the cartoons to teach his students about the importance of free speech.
The image he showed students was the same one published by Charlie Hebdo which sparked the attack on the magazine’s offices that killed 12.
The caricatures are considered blasphemous by Muslims.
The French government saw the knife attack as an attack on freedom of speech.
Macron has said he would redouble efforts to stop conservative Islamic beliefs subverting French values.
Furthering anger, Charlie Hebdo published a cartoon on its cover showing Turkish leader Tayyip Erdogan sitting in a white t-shirt and underpants, holding a canned drink and lifting the skirt of a woman wearing an Islamic hijab to reveal her naked bottom.
Turkish officials said Ankara would take legal and diplomatic steps in response to the caricature, calling it a “disgusting effort” to “spread its cultural racism and hatred”.
In Cairo, Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi said freedom of expression should stop if it offended more than 1.5 billion people.
Yesterday, Iranian president Hassan Rouhani warned the row over the cartoons could lead to “violence and bloodshed”.
“It’s a surprise that this would come from those claiming culture and democracy, that they would somehow, even if unintentionally, encourage violence and bloodshed,” he said.
“Westerners must understand the great Prophet of Islam is loved by all Muslims and freedom-lovers of the world.
“Insulting the Prophet is insulting all Muslims. Insulting the Prophet is insulting all prophets, human values, and amounts to undermining ethic.”
France’s foreign ministry has issued safety advice to French citizens in Indonesia, Turkey, Bangladesh, Iraq and Mauritania, advising them to exercise caution.
They were told to stay away from protests over the cartoons and avoid public gatherings.
France has taken a tough line in defending the controversial cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed.
Prophet Mohammed cartoons have been displayed in France in solidarity with Paty to defend what many in the country see as its values of free speech and secularism.
In Thursday’s attack in Nice, three people were killed in a bloody rampage which saw a suspected terrorist storm the Basilica of Notre-Dame.
One of the victims – a woman, reportedly aged 70 – was said to have been decapitated inside the church.
It was widely reported in French media she was beheaded, and the city’s mayor also confirmed the nature of the injuries, as well as police sources speaking to Reuters.
The male victim who was stabbed to death is said to be the church’s 45-year-old sacristan, an officer charged with taking care of the church.
The third victim – a woman in her 30s – reportedly managed to escape and took refuge in a nearby bar, but she succumbed to her injuries, reports BFMTV.
Meanwhile, police confirmed a man shouting “Allahu Akbar” while brandishing a knife was also shot dead 160 miles away in Avignon.
Meanwhile, a security guard at the French Consulate in Jeddah was stabbed and left with minor injuries.
Another man, described as known to French intelligence services, was also arrested as he was about to board a tram armed with a 12 inch knife.
President Emmanuel Macron announced up to 7,000 soldiers will be deployed to the streets across France in the wake of the violence to protect landmarks, schools and places of worship.
He denounced the Nice bloodbath as an “Islamic terror attack” and defiantly said France will not “give up on our values”.
The latest attack on Nice also comes after 86 people were killed in the city when a terrorist rammed a 19-tonne cargo truck through crowds on Bastille Day in July 2016.
It also follows the stabbing of two people outside the former offices of Charlie Hebdo in Paris.
Macron visited the scene in Nice with Mayor Estrosi on Thursday, while France’s National Assembly observed a minute’s silence in solidarity with the victims.
Prime Minister Jean Castex said the government’s response will be “relentless and immediate”.
Italian leader Giuseppe Conte condemned the “vile attack” and said it “will not shake the common front defending the values of freedom and peace”.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Twitter: “I am appalled to hear the news from Nice this morning of a barbaric attack at the Notre-Dame Basilica.
“Our thoughts are with the victims and their families, and the UK stands steadfastly with France against terror and intolerance.”
UK foreign secretary Dominic Raab said: “The UK stands with France today in sorrow, shock and solidarity at the horrifying events in Nice.
“Our thoughts are with the victims and their families and we offer every support to the French people in pursuing those responsible for this appalling attack.”
Pope Francis also prayed for the victims of the attack, as the Vatican said “terrorism and violence can never be accepted”.