A movement to boycott French products has gained momentum in Bangladesh, the world's third-largest Muslim majority state, following President Emmanuel Macron's comments supporting the republication of blasphemous caricatures of Prophet Muhammad.
The 2015 Charlie Hebdo caricatures have once again come under the limelight after a French teacher, Samuel Paty, was killed last week by a Chechen-origin teenager after he displayed the cartoons in his class on free speech. The attacker was shot dead by police.
Last Wednesday, Macron said he will not prevent the publishing of the cartoons under the pretext of freedom of speech sparking outrage among the Muslim world.
French Muslims have accused him of trying to repress their religion and legitimizing Islamophobia.
Several Arab countries as well as Turkey and Pakistan have also condemned Macron's attitude toward Muslims and Islam, with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan saying the French leader needs a "mental health check."
In Bangladesh, tens of thousands of protesters launched a march toward the French Embassy in Dhaka on Tuesday to register their strong reservations against the remarks and called on people to boycott French products.
The country is a major consumer of French perfumes and cosmetics.
Speakers at a Sunday rally in Bangladesh's capital Dhaka called on the French president to apologize for his remarks.
“As one of the top-ranking European countries, France knows very well that Prophet Muhammad is the greatest leader for Muslims across the world," Khalilur Rahman Madani, convener of Joint Islamic Parties, told Anadolu Agency.
He termed the movement to boycott French products "peaceful".
In a separate rally on Sunday, students of Bangladesh's leading Dhaka University gathered in the capital to protest the “state-sponsored display of the caricature of Prophet Muhammad in France”.
They called on Bangladesh's Foreign Ministry to recall the French ambassador.
Saleh Uddin Sifat, a law student at the university, said: "We believe in freedom of expression and press, but insulting one's belief and religion should not be accepted. We encountered this in Nazi Germany's anti-Semitic propaganda cartoons."
The boycott drive has impacted the trade of French products in Bangladesh, traders say.
“We generally see people enquiring about the origin of products for assessing its quality. But for the last couple of days, we have noticed some people enquiring about whether the products were from France,” Md. Sirajul Islam, a cosmetic product trader in Dhaka’s New Market Shopping Mall, told Anadolu Agency.
He added: “I sell many French perfumes, but now their demand has hit rock bottom."Anadolu Agency website contains only a portion of the news stories offered to subscribers in the AA News Broadcasting System (HAS), and in summarized form. Please contact us for subscription options.