Protesters in predominantly Muslim nations have made calls to boycott French products as a clash over depictions of the Prophet Muhammad and the limits of free speech intensified.
- A man beheaded a French teacher who had shown pupils cartoons of the Prophet Mohammad
- French businesses operate in majority-Muslim markets around the world
- Other European leaders have backed Mr Macron’s stance
In Bangladesh, protesters unfurled placards with a caricature of French President Emmanuel Macron and the words, “Macron is the enemy of peace”, while Pakistan summoned France’s ambassador in Islamabad to issue a protest.
Qatar University cancelled a French culture week and protests have been held in Turkey and the Gaza Strip.
It began after a knife attack outside a French school on October 16 in which an 18-year-old man of Chechen origin beheaded Samuel Paty, a 47-year-old teacher who had shown pupils cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad in a civics lesson on freedom of speech.
Turkish leader Tayyip Erdogan asked his compatriots to stop buying French goods on Monday (local time) in his latest expression of anger.
Mr Erdogan, who has a history of fraught relations with Mr Macron, said France was pursuing an anti-Islam agenda.
“I am calling to all my citizens from here to never help French brands or buy them,” Mr Erdogan said.
In Turkey, French autos are among the highest selling cars, and French-Turkish bilateral trade overall was worth nearly $US15 billion ($21.1 billion) last year.
The Turkish President has made similar boycott calls in the past, including an appeal not to buy US electronic goods in 2018 which was not followed through.
Mr Erdogan joined a chorus of voices elsewhere calling for a boycott.
In Kuwait city, a supermarket had stripped its shelves of L’Oreal cosmetics and skincare products after the cooperative union to which it belongs decided to stop stocking French goods.
In Saudi Arabia, calls for a boycott of French supermarket chain Carrefour were trending on social media, although two stores Reuters visited in the Saudi capital on Monday seemed as busy as normal.
While the immediate commercial impact of the boycott calls was difficult to assess, French businesses operate in majority-Muslim markets around the world.
Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte, in a Twitter post, said Mr Erdogan’s remarks directed at Macron were unacceptable.
“Full solidarity with the President @EmmanuelMacron,” Mr Conte wrote.
“Personal invective does not help the positive agenda that the EU wants to pursue with Turkey.”
German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas described Mr Erdogan’s personal attacks on Mr Macron as a new low.
Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said his country stands with France for the freedom of speech and also against extremism.
France itself has stood firm.
In a Tweet on Sunday, Mr Macron said France respected all differences in a spirit of peace but he also said: “We will not give in, ever.”
France’s foreign ministry said in a statement issued at the weekend that the criticism of France was being driven by a radical minority and urged foreign governments to dissociate themselves from boycott calls.
It’s not the first time France has grappled with terrorism — or with questions about free speech.
Five years ago, French-born Al-Qaida extremists killed 12 employees of the satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo in response to its publication of caricatures depicting the Prophet Muhammad.
Those cartoons also sparked mass protests in Muslim-majority countries, with some turning deadly.