An anti-French demonstration was reported near the Embassy of France in Islamabad on Friday, October 30, with protesters condemning French Prime Minister Emmanuel Macron's recent vow to fight 'Islamist separatism'. Police utilized tear gas to disperse the demonstrators and minor scuffles with police were reported.
A heightened security presence as well as localized disruptions are likely in the area in the near term.
Tensions over the response of the French government to recent Islamist attacks and terrorism in the country have been increasing since the murder of teacher Samuel Paty by an alleged Islamist extremist in the northern Paris suburb of Conflans-Sainte-Honorine on October 16. The attack prompted an outpouring of support in France and a strong response from the government which saw dozens arrested and several organizations and mosques closed in a widespread crackdown on alleged Islamic extremism. However, comments from President Emmanuel Macron regarding religious rights and freedom of expression and the display of controversial cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad at solidarity rallies following the attack have since prompted accusations of Islamophobia from several Muslim political and religious leaders around the world.
Dozens of protests over the crackdown and French government policies have since been held outside French embassies and consulates in multiple countries over the last week, including Turkey, Bangladesh, Iran, Mali, Mauritania, Libya, Pakistan, and Indonesia, some of which have drawn thousands of participants. There have also been widespread calls for a boycott of French goods, particularly foodstuffs, in Muslim-majority countries, with the protest being supported by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and several other Muslim leaders.
Those in Islamabad are advised to avoid the area around the French embassy in the near term. Travelers should be aware of an elevated threat against French nationals and interests in Pakistan and other countries in the region and should exercise a heightened level of vigilance.
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