Thousands of people demonstrated on Saturday in the Senegalese capital Dakar against cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed and French President Emmanuel Macron’s defence of the right to satirise religion.
AFP reporters saw some demonstrators burn French flags and pictures of Macron as well as back the calls for a boycott of French products that have circulated in the Muslim world in recent weeks.
“Macron wounded the whole Muslim world. If the world is at peace it’s thanks to the Muslim religion. I myself hate Macron,” said demonstrator Youssoupha Sow.
Demonstrations erupted in a number of majority Muslim countries following Macron’s impassioned defence of freedom of expression last month, delivered at a memorial for a teacher who was beheaded by a suspected Islamist after showing Mohammed cartoons in a civics class.
The French leader’s words were taken by some as an attack on their faith, and he has since tried to calm the tensions by saying he understands Muslims’ reaction to the drawings.
With a population that is around 95 percent Muslim, Senegal has close ties with former colonial power France.
Four brotherhoods of the religion’s Sufi branch play a dominant role in the country’s public life, and it is famous for religious tolerance.
Saturday’s protest “isn’t to say that we’re against France or whoever else,” said marcher Awa Thiam.
“We just want our fellow citizens, Muslims like us, to be able to practise their faith in peace.
“People shouldn’t make others afraid, make them believe that (Islam) is a religion of terror, of evil… actually you can’t get more peaceful than Islam.”
Another demonstrator, Kara Sow, said he and others were “really angry that people are saying bad things about the prophet Mohammed and drawing cartoons of him. We love the prophet more than our own parents.”
Strict interpretations of Islam forbid making any images of Mohammed.