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Saudi Arabia condemns conflation of 'Islam with terrorism' amid regional anti-France protests

Riyadh did not comment on growing calls for a boycott of French goods in the Middle East after Paris had defended caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad
Palestinians burn a picture of French President Emmanuel Macron in Gaza City during a protest on 27 October 2020 (Reuters)

Saudi Arabia has rejected attempts to link Islam with terrorism, as calls for a boycott of French goods heightened in many Muslim-majority countries over Paris's defence of caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad in the wake of a deadly attack. 

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A Riyadh foreign ministry official told local state media on Tuesday that it supported "freedom of expression" but rejected "practices and acts which generated hatred, violence and extremism and are contrary to the values of coexistence".

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Riyadh also used its statement to condemn all acts of terrorism, in an apparent reference to the beheading in a Paris suburb on 16 October of a French teacher, Samuel Paty, who had shown cartoons of the prophet in a class on the freedom of speech. 

Saudi daily Arab News on Tuesday quoted the head of the Saudi-based Muslim World League, Mohammed al-Issa, as saying that an overreaction "that is negative and goes beyond what is acceptable" would only benefit "haters".

This latest announcement came as France warned its citizens in several Muslim-majority countries to take extra security precautions. 

Paris said on Monday that it was deploying its diplomats across the Muslim-world to ease tensions as anger mounted towards French President Emmanuel Macron and his defence of the cartoons. 

Calls for boycott

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan called for a boycott of French goods, with Pakistan passing a resolution to recall its envoy to Paris. 

Protests have also erupted in Iraq, Turkey and the besieged Gaza Strip, with demonstrators in Baghdad burning the French flag and stepping on images of Macron. 

Meanwhile, tens of thousands of people in Dhaka, Bangladesh called for a boycott of French products. Several trade associations in the Arab world have also called for a boycott, with some supermarkets in Kuwait taking down French goods from their shelves. 

In Saudi Arabia, calls for a boycott of French supermarket chain Carrefour were trending on social media, but a company representative in France said it had yet to feel the impact.

United Arab Emirates-based group Majid Al Futtaim, which operates Carrefour supermarkets across the Middle East, said the chain supported regional economies by sourcing most items from local suppliers and employing thousands of people.

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