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ISLAM

Afghans protest over French cartoons

Hundreds of Afghans on Thursday protested for the first time against cartoons of the prophet Muhammad published in France and staged fresh rallies against a US-made anti-Islam film.

About 300 students chanted "death to France, death to America" in a western neighbourhood of the capital Kabul, an AFP photographer said.

Nearby hundreds more gathered on a flyover and chanted "death to America" and "long live Islam, long live Afghanistan", another AFP photographer said.

Both demonstrations were peaceful, condemning new Muhammad cartoons published by a French satirical magazine on Wednesday and the low-budget film "Innocence of Muslims" which has triggered protests around the world.

Similar rallies have been held across Afghanistan in the last four days. On Monday, a protest of more than 1,000 residents in eastern Kabul turned violent when the crowd set fire to cars and threw stones at police. About 50 officers were slightly wounded.

Afghanistan is a devoutly Muslim nation and issues seen as an insult to religion are taken very seriously, often with violent consequences. Earlier this year 40 people were killed in street unrest over the burning of copies of the Koran by US soldiers on a base.

France has said that on Friday, the Muslim day of prayer, it will close diplomatic missions, cultural centres and French schools in around 20 Muslim countries for fear of violent protests over the cartoons.

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ISLAM

Erdogan calls French separatism bill ‘guillotine’ of democracy

Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Wednesday denounced a planned French law designed to counter "Islamist separatism" as a "guillotine" of democracy.

Erdogan calls French separatism bill 'guillotine' of democracy
Erdogan has already denounced the proposed measures as "anti-Muslim". Photo: Adem ALTAN/AFP

The draft legislation has been criticised both inside France and abroad for stigmatising Muslims and giving the state new powers to limit speech and religious groups.

“The adoption of this law, which is openly in contradiction of human rights, freedom of religion and European values, will be a guillotine blow inflicted on French democracy,” said Erdogan in a speech in Ankara.

The current version of the planned law would only serve the cause of extremism, putting NGOs under pressure and “forcing young people to choose between their beliefs and their education”, he added.

READ ALSO: What’s in France’s new law to crack down on Islamist extremism?

“We call on the French authorities, and first of all President (Emmanuel) Macron, to act sensibly,” he continued. “We expect a rapid withdrawal of this bill.”

Erdogan also said he was ready to work with France on security issues and integration, but relations between the two leaders have been strained for some time.

France’s government is in the process of passing new legislation to crack down on what it has termed “Islamist separatism”, which would give the state more power to vet and disband religious groups judged to be threats to the nation.

Erdogan has already denounced the proposed measures as “anti-Muslim”.

READ ALSO: Has Macron succeeded in creating an ‘Islam for France’?

Last October, Erdogan questioned Macron’s “mental health”, accusing him of waging a “campaign of hatred” against Islam, after the French president defended the right of cartoonists to caricature the prophet Mohammed.

The two countries are also at odds on a number of other issues, including Libya, Syria and the eastern Mediterranean.

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