Thousands protest in Pakistan over blasphemous cartoons
Christian community also holds rally to denounce French president's anti-Islam remarks
Thousands marched in Pakistan's commercial capital Karachi on Sunday to denounce the republication of blasphemous cartoons, and anti-Islam remarks by French President Emanuel Macron.
Chanting slogans such as "Down with Charlie Hebdo," "Down with Macron," and "blasphemy of Prophet Mohammad unacceptable," the protest rally commenced from the mausoleum of founding father Mohammad Ali Jinnah, and culminated in the city's downtown.
The rally was organized by Jamaat-e-Islami, a mainstream religious party. Demonstrations were also held in the capital Islamabad, northeastern city of Lahore, and southwestern Peshawar, among others.
Addressing the rally, Asadullah Bhutto, the deputy chief of the party, censured the French president for encouraging the already rising wave of Islamophobia in the world, largely in Europe, following the killing of Samuel Patty, a teacher who showed cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad to his pupils.
Separately, protesters gathered near the French consulate. They tried to march towards the diplomatic building; however, police blocked the roads with containers and barriers.
In Quetta, the capital of southwestern Balochistan province, hundreds of Christians took out a rally and condemned the projecting of blasphemous caricatures on government buildings in French cities.
Carrying banners, and posters inscribed with slogans against Islamophobia, and in support of inter-faith harmony, the protesters gathered outside the Quetta Press Club.
Khalil George, a former Christian lawmaker, said freedom of expression does not mean one could hurt the feelings and religious beliefs of any community.
Besides protests, Macron's defense of the cartoons, and describing Islam as “a religion in crisis all over the world” has led to international condemnations and calls to boycott French products.
Last week, Pakistan's Prime Minister Imran Khan accused Macron of "attacking Islam." He also wrote to Muslim leaders for a collective strategy against Islamophobia, and urged Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg to ban anti-Islam content on his platform.