On the front page of a hardline Iranian newspaper, he was the “Demon of Paris”. In the streets of Dhaka he was decried as a leader who “worships Satan”. Outside Baghdad’s French embassy, a likeness of Emmanuel Macron was burned along with France’s flag.
Rage is growing across the Muslim world at the French president and his perceived attacks on Islam and the prophet Muhammad, leading to calls for boycotts of the French products and security warnings for France’s citizens in majority-Muslim states.
The backlash has cut across an extraordinarily diverse Muslim world with a myriad of cultures, sects, political systems and levels of economic development. It has stoked historical and present-day grievances from the markets of Herat in Afghanistan to the upmarket neighbourhoods of Amman and the universities of Islamabad.
Tension has simmered since September when the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo republished cartoons of the prophet Muhammad on the eve of a trial of 14 people accused of involvement in a terrorist attack against the publication’s offices in 2015 for publishing the same caricatures.
Charlie Hebdo risked further inflaming tensions with Turkey by placing a cartoon mocking president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on the front page of its edition published online on Tuesday night. Erdogan’s top press aide, Fahrettin Altun, tweeted: “We condemn this most disgusting effort by this publication to spread its cultural racism and hatred.”
It was fuelled by a speech Macron gave earlier this month announcing his intention to fight “Islamist separatism”, in which he described the faith as one “that is in crisis all over the world today”, prompting objections from several Muslim leaders and commentators.
A fortnight later, the French teacher Samuel Paty was beheaded outside his school for showing his class the Muhammad cartoons. The murder, said to have been carried out by a young Muslim of Chechen origin, has prompted raids on several accused violent extremists and Islamic groups.
Several French cities responded by projecting caricatures of the Islamic prophet on the walls of buildings as a gesture of defiance and defence of secularism, and Macron told a vigil in Paris that his country “would not give up cartoons”.
The most recent protests were in the Bangladesh capital on Tuesday, where police estimated about 40,000 were involved in a demonstration organised by the country’s largest Islamist party.