Tens of thousands of Muslims in India took part in protests against French President Emmanuel Macron after Friday prayers. Hundreds of them beat posters of Macron with shoes to express their resentment. The French President had spoken out against Islamic jihadists who had beheaded at least two people and stabbed several others in his country over blasphemous cartoons depicting Prophet Mohammed.
Protests were held mainly in Bhopal, Mumbai and Hyderabad after Friday prayers. The most surprising part was the assembly of several thousand Muslims in Iqbal Maidan of Bhopal on Thursday night, and the main organizer of the crowd was a local Congress MLA Arif Masood. Despite the spread of Covid pandemic, devout Muslims were asked to assemble at night by the local MLA to protest against the French President. The crowd was misled into believing that Macron had insulted the Prophet, but in reality, it was not so. Macron had taken a tough stance against Islamic jihadists who were beheading innocent people in the name of protecting the honour of the Prophet.
The Congress MLA got posters of President Macron printed in advance and, after meticulous planning, invited people through loudspeakers to assemble to register their protest. The entire drama was pre-planned and the intent was obvious: to instigate feelings of Muslim over a non-issue which had no relevance to India. Even French national flags were distributed among the crowd to be trampled upon. A makeshift dais was prepared from where the Qazi of Bhopal Mushtaq Ahmed Nadvi gave inflammatory speech asking the devouts to take revenge against those who had insulted the Prophet. Several Muslim leaders and maulanas were invited to address the gathering.
Soon after, Arif Masood gave another inflammatory speech and asked Muslims to take revenge. Masood even went to the extent of criticizing the Indian government on this issue. With voters in 28 assembly constituencies of Madhya Pradesh going to polls on November 3, Masood tried to give the issue a communal colour in order to garner votes. On Friday too, the crowd assembled at Bhopal’s Iqbal Maidan and while chanting anti-Macron slogans they trampled upon the posters of the French President. The most funny part was that most of the protesters did not know who Macron was and what he had said. The protesters said they were merely following the call of the maulana who told them that the Prophet had been insulted in France.
In Mumbai’s Muslim-dominated locality Bhindi Bazaar, a local outfit Raza Academy circulated posters alleging that the French President had insulted the Prophet and Muslims should take revenge. Local police took timely action and removed the posters, but after Friday prayers, a crowd congregated to chant anti-Macron slogans. In Mumbai too, most of the protesters did not know who Macron was.
Let us go back to recapitulate what actually happened. In France, a teacher displayed an objectionable cartoon of Prophet Muhammad to his students in class, after which a Chechnyan youth beheaded him. The entire French nation stood one in solidarity with the beheaded teacher, and President Macron led the nation in condemning what he called ‘Islamist terrorist attack.’ Soon after, a Tunisian man went on a stabbing spree inside a church in the city of Nice, beheading a woman and stabbing two others to death while chanting ‘Allahu Akbar’. He was shot and seriously injured. The Mayor of Nice described this as an act of “Islamo-fascism”, while Macron said, France will never surrender its core values in the face of such terror attacks. It must be noted here that among European countries, France has the largest number of Muslims.
Macron said: “If we are attacked once again, it is for the values which are ours: freedom, for the possibility on our soil to believe freely and not to give in to any spirit of terror. I say it with great clarity once again today: we won’t surrender anything.” Nowhere in this statement did Macron make any remark which could be termed as an insult to the Prophet. He had only spoken about the freedom of belief of every French citizen and had condemned Islamist terror. More than 7,000 French soldiers have been deployed at public places to prevent terror attacks.
As a reaction, several Islamic countries, notably led by Turkey, have given a call to boycott all products made in France. On Friday, there were protests against Macron in several Islamic countries. On behalf of India, Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted: “I condemn the recent terrorist attacks in France, including today’s heinous attacks in Nice, inside a church. Our deepest and heartfelt condolences to the families of victims and the people of France. India stands with France in the fight against terrorism.”
My question is: what has the act of a teacher displaying a blasphemous poster in France got anything to do with Indian Muslims? The jihadist attack is not only a matter that concerns France or Europe. The entire world is concerned over Islamic terrorism, and Prime Minister Modi did the right thing in expressing solidarity with France in the fight against terrorism. In 2015, journalists at the French magazine Charlie Hebdo were massacred by Islamic jihadists, and India had condemned that act. The beheadings and stabbings that took place in France this week need to be condemned, but there is another aspect to this issue.
The feelings of a majority of Muslims all over the world have been hurt because of blasphemous cartoons depicting Prophet Mohammed, whom they consider as ‘Nabi’. Their feelings must be given respect, but this does not mean that the freedom of expression must be curbed in totality. The Holy Quran and the Holy Bible advise followers not to hurt the feelings of others, but I would appeal to Muslim brothers and sisters to also condemn the heinous beheadings and killings by self-proclaimed jihadists. They should not extend any direct or indirect support to these killers. The Holy Quran says, even the murder of a single individual is murder of humanity. Both Prophet Mohammed and Jesus Christ have said that killings in the name of religion is a sin, hurting somebody’s feelings in the name of religion is also a sin. Let us save our world from such sins.
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