France has warned its citizens living or travelling in Bangladesh and several Muslim-majority countries to take extra security precautions as anger surged over cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh).
The foreign ministry of France issued the safety advice to French citizens in Bangladesh, Indonesia, Iraq and Mauritania on Tuesday, advising them to exercise caution, reports Reuters.
“They should stay away from any protests over the cartoons and avoid any public gatherings,” it added.
“It is recommended to exercise the greatest vigilance, especially while travelling, and in places that are frequented by tourists or expatriate communities,” it said.
The row has its roots in a knife attack outside a French school on October 16 in which a man of Chechen origin beheaded Samuel Paty, a teacher who had shown pupils cartoons of Prophet Mohammad (pbuh) in a civics lesson on freedom of speech. The caricatures are considered blasphemous by Muslims.
The French embassy in Turkey issued similar advice to its citizens there.
French President Emmanuel Macron, who met representatives of France’s Muslim community on Monday, has pledged to fight “Islamist separatism”, saying it was threatening to take over some Muslim communities in France.
In a sign that some countries want to limit the fallout, Saudi Arabia condemned the cartoons but held back from echoing calls by other Muslim states for a boycott of French products or other actions.
A Saudi foreign ministry official said on Tuesday the Gulf state condemns all acts of terrorism, an apparent reference to Paty’s killing.
“Freedom of expression and culture should be a beacon of respect, tolerance and peace that rejects practices and acts which generate hatred, violence and extremism and are contrary to coexistence,” the official said in a statement.
The daily Arab News on Tuesday cited the head of the Saudi-based Muslim World League, Mohammed al-Issa, as cautioning that an over-reaction “that is negative and goes beyond what is acceptable” would only benefit “haters”.
However, calls for a boycott of French supermarket chain Carrefour was trending on social media in Saudi Arabia. In Kuwait, some supermarkets have pulled French products.
Turkey’s Erdogan on Monday asked his compatriots to stop buying French goods and accused France of pursuing an anti-Islam agenda.
France is a major exporter of grain to mainly-Muslim NorthAfrica, and French companies in the autos and retail sectors also have significant exposure to majority-Muslim countries.
French Trade Minister Franck Riester said it was too early to put a figure on the impact of a boycott campaign but so far it was limited and mainly affected French agricultural exports.
Iran’s Foreign Ministry summoned the French charge d’affaires over the cartoons, state media reported on Tuesday.
A ministry official told the diplomat during their meeting on Monday that Iran strongly rejected “any insult and disrespect to the Prophet of Islam”.
In Bangladesh on Monday, protesters held placards with the image of the French President and the words: “Macron is the enemy of peace”.