Tensions in France over caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad — between offended Muslims and President Emmanuel Macron’s government defending freedom of expression — have spilled over into Asia, which also is home to a large Muslim population.
Here are the latest developments:
Saturday, Oct. 31 (Tokyo time)
6:30 a.m. France’s chief anti-terrorism prosecutor says the 21-year-old suspect of the Nice attack, was a Tunisian born in 1999 who arrived in Europe on Sept. 20 in Lampedusa, the Italian island off Tunisia that is a main landing point for migrants from Africa.
He arrived in Nice by train on Thursday morning and made his way to the church, where he stabbed and killed the 55-year-old sexton and beheaded a 60-year-old woman.
He also stabbed a 44-year-old woman, who fled to a nearby cafe where she raised the alarm before dying, Ricard said. Police then arrived, shot and wounded him.
4:20 a.m. The leader of the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah, Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, calls the French cartoons an aggression and likens the Macron administration’s stance to “declaring a sort of war.”
In a televised speech, Nasrallah says French authorities worsened the standoff over the caricatures by being stubborn. Freedom of expression should not include “violating the dignity of 2 billion Muslims,” he says. “No Muslim in this world can accept insulting his prophet,” Nasrallah says.
But he also denounces Thursday’s stabbing attack in Nice, saying it is rejected by Islam.
2:02 a.m. France steps up security nationwide to guard against Islamist attacks after the fatal stabbings at a church in Nice, while protests flare in parts of the Middle East, Asia and Africa over caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad. French President Emmanuel Macron has deployed thousands of soldiers to protect sites including places of worship and schools, and the nation has been at its highest level of security alert after the second deadly knife attack in its cities in two weeks.
Also, police are holding a 21-year-old Tunisian migrant, identified by a French police source and Tunisian officials as Brahim al-Aouissaoui, over the attack in which a man shouting “Allahu akbar!” — meaning “God is the greatest!” — decapitated a woman and killed two other people in Notre Dame Basilica in Nice on Thursday.
12:10 a.m. Tens of thousands of Muslims protest in Pakistan, Bangladesh and Palestinian territories. French Interior Minister Gerald Damarnin says that France — home to Europe’s largest Muslim community and hit by a string of militant attacks in recent years — is engaged in a war against Islamist ideology and that more attacks are likely.
In Pakistan, police fire tear gas at protesters who have broken through security blockades in Islamabad in a failed attempt to demonstrate at the French Embassy over images depicting the Prophet Muhammad. Protests and gatherings marking the occasion are also held in the Pakistani cities of Karachi, Lahore and Peshawar. In Bangladesh, tens of thousands march through Dhaka, the capital, chanting “Boycott French products!” and carrying banners calling Macron “the world’s biggest terrorist.”
In Ramallah, in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, Palestinians trample on a large French flag and burn other French flags.
In Gaza, ruled by Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas, hundreds of Palestinians take part in anti-France rallies, chanting: “With our souls and blood we will redeem the prophet!”
Friday, Oct. 30
11:00 p.m. In a poll by French research company Ifop, 79% of respondents say radical Islam has declared war on the country, and 87% say secularism is now in danger there. (Link in French)
In a 2019 poll, around 60% of French citizens said that the values of Islam and the French society do not fit well together. In a separate poll, around 60% of Muslims said they felt discrimination in France when searching for jobs.
10:00 p.m. Former Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad writes on his blog that he is “disgusted” with attempts to misrepresent and take out of context his Thursday comments about freedom of speech.
Mahathir also criticized Facebook and Twitter over the removal of his posts “despite attempts to explain the context of the posting.”
“There is nothing I can do with FB and Twitter’s decision to remove my posting. To my mind, since they are the purveyor of freedom of speech, they must at least allow me to explain and defend my position,” he writes in his blog entry, titled “MISREPRESENTED CONTEXT.”
4:08 p.m. India, home to one of the world’s largest Muslim populations, sees mass protests across many cities. Here, a crowd chants “Slogan of faith: God is the greatest!” in the central city of Bhopal:
3:00 a.m. “This Tweet violated the Twitter Rules.” A short notice from the U.S. social media giant announces the removal of a tweet by former Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, who had earlier written that “Muslims have a right to be angry and to kill millions of French people for the massacres of the past.”
Under Twitter’s policy, “When we determine that a Tweet violated the Twitter Rules, we require the violator to remove it before they can Tweet again. We send an email notification to the violator identifying the Tweet(s) in violation and which policies have been violated.”
Thursday, Oct. 29
11:00 p.m. French President Emmanuel Macron says: “Once again our country has been hit by an attack, an Islamic terrorist attack,” as he visits the scene of the church killings in Nice. “All of us would like to support the Catholics in France and elsewhere,” Macron says. “Once again it’s the Catholics that are being attacked,” he says.
10:45 p.m. A Saudi man is arrested in the Red Sea city of Jiddah after attacking and wounding a security guard with a “sharp tool” at the French Consulate, local police say. A statement from the Mecca region’s police says that the guard suffered “minor injuries” and that “legal action” is being taken against the perpetrator.
The French Embassy says that the consulate has been subject to an “attack by knife which targeted a guard,” that the guard has been hospitalized and that his life is not in danger. “The French Embassy strongly condemns this attack against a diplomatic outpost which nothing could justify,” it says.
10:34 p.m. Saudi Arabia “strongly condemns” the attack in Nice, its foreign ministry says. “The kingdom categorically rejects such extremist acts, which contravene all religions … while stressing the importance of avoiding all practices which generate hatred, violence and extremism,” says the statement published by the state news agency SPA.
8:54 p.m. France raises the security alert for French territory to the highest level after the knife attack in the city of Nice. Prime Minister Jean Castex announces that the government’s response to the attack will be firm and implacable.
6:00 p.m. U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo urges Indonesians to focus on the treatment of Muslim Uighurs in China, describing it as the “gravest threat” to the future of religious freedom in a speech to an Islamic group.
“There is no counterterrorism justification for forcing Uighur Muslims to eat pork during Ramadan or destroying a Muslim cemetery,” Pompeo says. “There is no poverty alleviation justification for forced sterilizations or taking children away from their parents to be reeducated in state-run boarding schools.”
“I know that the Chinese Communist Party has tried to convince Indonesians to look away, to look away from the torments your fellow Muslims are suffering,” he says. “I know that these same CCP officials have spun fantastic tales of happy Uighurs eager to discard their ethnic, religious and cultural identities to become more ‘modern’ and enjoy the benefits of CCP-led development. When you hear these arguments, I’d just ask you to do this: search your hearts. Look at the facts. Listen to the tales of the survivors and of their families.”
“My holy book teaches me that faith without works is dead,” Pompeo says.
“I’m sure you know the ways that the Islamic tradition — and the Indonesian tradition — demand that we speak out and work for justice,” he says.
5:00 p.m. A knife-wielding attacker shouting “Allahu Akbar!” — meaning “God is the greatest!” — beheads a woman and kills two other people at a church in the French city of Nice. The assailant is believed to be a 21-year-old Tunisian national who had recently entered the country from Italy.
3:12 a.m. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan says Western countries mocking Islam want to “relaunch the Crusades,” heightening a confrontation with France over cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad that have stirred anger in Muslim-majority countries. In a speech to lawmakers of his AK Party in the parliament, Erdogan calls standing against attacks on the prophet “an issue of honor for us,” suggesting that Ankara may be digging in for a prolonged standoff.
Wednesday, Oct. 28
11:05 p.m. Malaysia “strongly condemns any inflammatory rhetoric and provocative acts that seek to defame the religion of Islam as the world has recently witnessed in the forms of populist speeches and publication of blasphemous caricatures depicting the Holy Prophet Muhammad,” its foreign ministry says as the French envoy is summoned to the ministry.
6:26 p.m. Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi says freedom of expression should stop at offending more than 1.5 billion people, following the display of images in France of the Prophet Muhammad that Muslims see as blasphemous. Sisi also says he firmly rejects any form of violence or terrorism from anyone in the name of defending religion, religious symbols or icons.
Tuesday, Oct. 27
9:51 p.m. Thousands of Muslims take to the streets of the Bangladeshi capital of Dhaka to protest against remarks by French President Emmanuel Macron in a row about cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad. Protesters in Dhaka unfurl placards with caricatures of Macron and shout slogans, demanding an unconditional apology and the ouster of the French ambassador.
“Muslims will not let this go in vain,” says Atiqur Rahman, a spokesman for the right-wing Islami Andolan Bangladesh.
“He [Macron] needs mental treatment,” says the spokesman, who calls for a boycott of French products. “He has not only made himself the enemy of Islam, but of all peace-loving people too.”
3:06 a.m. Pakistan’s parliament passes a resolution urging the government to recall its envoy from Paris over the republication of images of the Prophet Muhammad in France, accusing President Emmanuel Macron of “hatemongering” against Muslims. The nonbinding National Assembly resolution comes hours after the French ambassador in Islamabad is summoned to the foreign office for Pakistan to register its protest. Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan also takes aim at Macron, saying he has attacked Islam by encouraging the display of cartoons depicting the prophet.
Monday, Oct. 26
9:49 p.m. As the French government’s crackdown on Muslim organizations gains momentum, the Collective Against Islamophobia in France tweets that “we no longer feel safe” in the country and that the organization is going international.
Wednesday, Oct. 21
At a national memorial for murdered schoolteacher Samuel Paty, French President Emmanuel Macron says Paty “was the victim of a conspiracy of stupidity, hate, lies … hate of the other … hate of what we profoundly are.”
Friday, Oct. 16
U.S. national security adviser Robert O’Brien says that China is perpetrating “something close to” a genocide with its treatment of Muslims in its Xinjiang region.
“If not a genocide, something close to it [is] going on in Xinjiang,” he tells an online event hosted by the Aspen Institute. The United Nations estimates that more than a million Muslims have been detained in Xinjiang.
O’Brien says U.S. Customs had seized “massive numbers” of hair products made with human hair from Xinjiang. “The Chinese are literally shaving the heads of Uighur women and making hair products and sending them to the United States,” he says.
Schoolteacher Samuel Paty is beheaded in a Paris suburb. Paty had shown his pupils cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad in a class on freedom of expression, angering some Muslim parents. Muslims believe that any depiction of the prophet is blasphemous. Police shot dead the 18-year-old attacker of Chechen origin.
Friday, Oct. 2
French President Emmanuel Macron gives a speech titled “Fight Against Separatism” in which he says that “Islam is a religion that is currently experiencing a crisis all over the world.”
Noting a need to free “Islam in France from foreign influences,” Macron announces that he will end a program to train imams sent from Turkey, Morocco and Algeria.