Iranians demand expulsion of French envoy over republication of cartoons insulting Prophet Mohammed

Calls are growing in Iran for the expulsion of the French envoy and boycott of the country's goods over President Emmanuel Macron's insulting statements against the Islamic religion.

Hundreds of people have taken to social media in past days demanding a "strong stance" from Iran's government to Macron's "blasphemous remarks" hurting the sentiments of Muslims.

"Freedom of expression is not freedom to insult," said Davood Bagherzadeh, an oil sector worker, calling for immediate expulsion of the French envoy in Tehran.

Mohammad, a university student, said these actions by French rulers "not only ridicule the sacred personalities of Muslims but violate the sanctity of all monotheistic religions".

Saeed Bahnoud, another university student, said the "humiliation and insult" should not go "unanswered" this time, suggesting that the "expulsion of French envoy would be a good start".

Abdul Majid Kharqani, a seminary scholar, pointed to the "hypocrisy" and "double standards" of French rulers on blasphemy of Islam's holy personalities and Holocaust.

"In France, any critical analysis of Holocaust is regarded as a punishable crime but the Prophet of Islam is ridiculed on the pretext of freedom of expression," he said.

Macron has sparked outrage across the Muslim world by accusing Muslims of "separatism" and describing Islam as a "a religion in crisis all over the world".

This coincided with a provocative move by Charlie Hebdo, a left-wing French magazine infamous for publishing anti-Islamic caricatures, which have drawn widespread anger and outrage across the Muslim world.

The caricatures were first published in 2006 by a Danish newspaper Jylllands Posten, sparking a wave of protests.

"When the insults (against the Holy Prophet) are repeated and the statements of condemnation have no serious effect, it is time to take a serious action," said Iman Ahangar, an activist.

Mohammad Saleh Soltani, a student leader at Sharif University, said "the least" Iran's government can do in response to sacrilegious remarks of French leaders is to "expel the French envoy".

Ghulamreza Khalilniya, a prominent academic and activist, also demanded the "expulsion of the French ambassador and the boycott of French goods".

Meanwhile, Iran's Parliament Speaker Baqer Qalibaf, addressing an open session of the assembly, condemned on Monday what he termed the "highest level of ugliness" exhibited by French officials.

He said the Parliament unanimously condemns the "ugly remarks by French officials", asserting that the "tricks" will backfire on them.

The Jewish member of Iran's Parliament Sameh Yah also denounced the French government over Macron's "blasphemous remarks", saying they seek to "foment Islamophobia" across the world.

On Sunday, Iranian Supreme Leader's top adviser and head of World Assembly of Islamic Awakening Ali Akbar Velayati also issued a statement, calling on Muslims to "thwart anti-Islamic conspiracies".

Iran's Foreign Ministry in a statement on Saturday had condemned the "disrespect" for the Prophet of Islam, saying that it was "unjustifiable" and "not appropriate or prudent".

The Iranians, however, feel that the official response from Iran to the "recurrent cases of insult" to Islam's holiest figure has not been strong enough.

Saeed Naeemi, an engineering student at Sharif University and an activist, said it is time to move beyond "dramatic condemnations" when the insults keep repeating.

"Since when have we been so humiliated that we respond so passively to insults to our sacred figures," he said, demanding expulsion of the French envoy and boycott of French products.

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