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Macron's Islam comments spark protests in Pakistani city of Karachi

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Traders burn burn a French flag during a protest against the publishing of caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad in Peshawar, Pakistan, on Monday, October 26, 2020.
Traders burn burn a French flag during a protest against the publishing of caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad in Peshawar, Pakistan, on Monday, October 26, 2020.   -   Copyright  Muhammad Sajjad/Associated Press
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Protesters gathered in the Pakistani city of Karachi on Tuesday in another demonstration against French president Emmanuel Macron following his comments in the wake of the beheading of a French school teacher.

The latest protest comes a day after Pakistan summoned the French ambassador to complain about Macron's "systematic Islamophobic campaign" after he defended the freedom to publish religious cartoons in France.

Further protests took place on Monday after Pakistani prime minister Imran Khan accused Macron of "attacking Islam".

Macron sparked outrage after he indicated France would not stop publishing satirical cartoons, including those of the Prophet Mohammed, at a national tribute for murdered teacher Samuel Paty, saying: "We will not give up cartoons, drawings, even if others back down".

Paty was beheaded outside his school by an Islamic extremist after having taught a lesson on freedom of speech using caricatures from the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo.

The French ambassador was summoned "to express Pakistan's concern about the systematic Islamophobic campaign under the guise of freedom of expression" in France, Zahid Hafeez Chaudhri, the spokesman of the Pakistani Foreign Ministry, told AFP.

Pakistan's parliament also passed a motion on Monday urging Khan's government to recall the country's ambassador from Paris.

"President Macron could have played appeasement," Khan, a former cricket star and playboy turned politician, tweeted on Sunday.

"It is regrettable that he chose to encourage Islamophobia by attacking Islam rather than the terrorists who practice violence, whether they are Muslims, white supremacists or Nazi ideologues," he continued.

On Sunday, the Pakistani prime minister also announced that he had written to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg to ask him to block Islamophobic content, after the platform announced in mid-October that it would ban Holocaust denial content.

Anti-French sentiment is running high in the Muslim world, with many countries now boycotting French products in response to Macron's comments.

As the boycott intensified on Sunday, the French president doubled down on his stance, tweeting: "We will not give in, ever”.

"We respect all differences in a spirit of peace. We do not accept hate speech and defend reasonable debate,” he added. “We will always be on the side of human dignity and universal values".

Depictions of the Prophet Mohammed have long been a sensitive issue in the Muslim world, with many seeing it as blasphemous. In 2005, the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten provoked outrage and stirred protests around the world after publishing cartoons of the founder of Islam.