November 20, 2020 Inquiry & Analysis Series No. 1537

At Anti-France Protests, Pakistani Clerics Call For Jihad, Atom Bomb Against France; 50 Million Rupees Offered For Beheading President Macron

November 20, 2020 | By Tufail Ahmad*
Inquiry & Analysis Series No. 1537

This report reviews recent anti-France protests in Pakistani towns led by Islamic scholars, who have declared jihad against France. The clerics are demanding  the beheading of French President Emmanuel Macron, the expulsion of France's French ambassador from Pakistan, and a boycott of French products.

By September 1, 2020, the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo had made international headlines for deciding to republish cartoons of Prophet Muhammad.[1] However, this news did not reach the front pages of Pakistan's leading Islamist daily, Roznama Ummat, until a few days later. Islamic clerics who spoke at conferences held by the Pakistani religious organization and movement Khatm-e-Nabuwwat on September 7 did not appear to mention France. In Peshawar, where one of the largest such conferences took place, Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam (JUI-F) emir Maulana Fazlur Rehman, spoke to a large crowd in rejection of any attempt to alter Pakistan's controversial blasphemy laws, but does not appear to have mentioned France.[2]

November 3, 2020: At a protest in Karachi, a poster held by a supporter of Jamaat-e-Islami Pakistan read: "Life is [for] sacrifice for Muhammad" (Source: Roznama Ummat, November 4, 2020).

However, since religious extremism has seeped into mass consciousness in Pakistan, this issue had nevertheless by then made its entry. On September 4, Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP), headed by the wheelchair-bound cleric Allama Khadim Hussain Rizvi, organized perhaps the first anti-France protests in Lahore, Karachi, and elsewhere, but this, too, was not widely reported by the press.[3]

On September 5, the Urdu daily Roznama Dunya published a short report on a protest by another group, the Muslim Students Organization, which had burned the French flag in Islamabad on September 4.[4] Subsequently, religious groups began organizing protests exclusively targeting France, at which Islamic scholars urged that the French ambassador be expelled from Pakistan and demanded that President Emmanuel Macron apologize or suffer beheading.

Most of these protest rallies were held on Fridays, when worshippers congregate in large numbers for weekly prayers. September and early October were largely peaceful, despite some occasional protests, and there were a few anti-France protests. This changed quickly, however. On October 27, Maulana Fazlur Rehman of JUI-F urged his followers to hold a week-long series of protests against France.[5] Towards the end of October and in early November, not a week passed without an anti-France rally in Pakistan.

Mother Of Charlie Hebdo Attacker Zaheer Hassan Mahmoud In Pakistan: He "Told Us That He Would Commit This Deed After Friday Prayers" In Paris

September 25, 2020, the day Pakistani immigrant Zaheer Hassan Mahmoud stabbed two people outside the former Paris offices of Charlie Hebdo, seemed to be a turning point. It was later reported in Pakistan's Urdu-language media that Mahmoud had informed his friends and family members in advance of his plans for the attack.

According to a media report, "Zaheer Mahmoud's mother Rukhsana Begum said that their son had told the family members beforehand about this attack and asked them for their prayers. She said: 'Zaheer told us that he would commit this deed after the Friday prayers [on September 25]; he had also called one of his friends and told him.'"[6]

The report added: "On this occasion, Zaheer Mahmoud's father Irshad Mahmoud said that after his son's attack in Paris, neighbors and relatives began arriving at their home to congratulate them; the entire village is extremely proud of this deed of Zaheer; wherever you go they are only talking about this [in celebratory language]."[7] Reflecting pious Pakistanis' view of jihadi attacks, the father also said: "Whatever Zaheer has done, it's very good; the punishment for committing blasphemy of the Prophet is death; and the blasphemer deserves nothing less than death; the one who kills those who commit blasphemy against the Prophet enters Paradise and his entire family will go to Paradise."[8]

Zaheer Mahmoud's  involvement in the series of attacks connected to Charlie Hebdo seems to have attracted the attention of Islamic clerics, as did a series of statements in October by Turkish President Tayyip Erdoğan accusing France of Islamophobia and calling for a boycott of French products. Within a month, the frequency of anti-France protests in Pakistan grew. In a video from late October that was translated by MEMRI TV, a female teacher at Jamia Hafsa, a girls' madrassa associated with the radical clerics of the Red Mosque of Islamabad, uses a sword to behead an effigy of President Macron in front of her small pupils.[9]

To view this clip on MEMRI TV, click here or below:

Tehreek-e-Minhaj-ul-Quran Organization, Founded By Canadian-Pakistani Cleric Tahirul Qadri: "The Forces Of Falsehood Are Challenging The Muslim Ummah"; "The French President Is A Terrorist And Extremist"

While protests were held by mosque and madrassa leaders in villages and small towns, large protests were organized in big cities like Lahore, Karachi, Islamabad, and Peshawar. On October 28, Jamaat-e-Islami Pakistan organized protests in Karachi, Islamabad, and Lahore where its members burned the French flag and an effigy of President Macron, while the politician Syed Abdul Rasheed, a member of the Sindh provincial legislative assembly, submitted a letter of protest to the French Consulate in Karachi.[10]

On October 28, Tanzeem-ul-Madaris Ahle Sunnat, a board of Sunni madrassas, held protest rallies in Rawalpindi. Similar protests were held in the towns of Badin, Hyderabad, Gujranwala, Faisalabad, Lahore, and Islamabad, where protesters shouted anti-France slogans and trampled on the French flag and pictures of President Macron.[11] On November 1, at another protest rally in Karachi, members of Jamaat-e-Islami Pakistan burned the French president in effigy.[12] On the same day, November 1, members of Sunni Tehreek, another leading religious organization, held a protest in Lahore.[13]

In early November, protests were organized in the towns of Larkana, Tando Muhammad Khan, Umerkot, and Jhudo, in Sindh province, and Macron was burned in effigy as protesters demanded that the French ambassador be expelled.[14] Among the protesters were traders, lawyers, journalists, and government employees, such as members of the All Revenue Sindh Employees Association. Local units of religious groups such as Jamaat-e-Islami Pakistan and JUI-F were the main organizers of these protests. In Hyderabad, the second largest city in Sindh province, leaders of the Muslim League (Functional) party also held an anti-France protest on November 1.[15]

A cartoon in the Urdu daily Roznama Ummat accuses President Macron of targeting Islam (Source: Roznama Ummat, November 2, 2020)

In Lahore, the women's branch of Jamaat-e-Islami Pakistan held a rally on November 5, while on the same day in Hyderabad, JUI-F held an anti-France protest in defense of the Prophet's honor.[16] In Rawalpindi, protests demanding a boycott of French products were organized by local traders on November 4 and 6.[17] Also, Jamaat-e-Islami Pakistan, the largest religious-political party, announced on November 5 a call for a million-man march to converge in Karachi on November 15, 2020.[18]

Some of the leading organizations at the forefront of the anti-France protests in Pakistan were TLP, JUI-F, Sunni Tehreek, Jamaat-e-Islami Pakistan, Aalami Majlis-e-Khatm-e-Nabuwwat, and Tehreek Minhaj-ul-Quran. The last owes allegiance to Canadian-Pakistani scholar Maulana Tahirul Qadri, who has acquired fame for issuing an anti-jihad fatwa, but his ideology is controversial and appears to condone Islamic extremism.[19] These groups have held protests in Bannu, Bajaur, Peshawar, Landi Kotal, Mansehra, Sargodha, Mirpur, Hyderabad, Karachi, Gujranwala, Rawalpindi, Islamabad, and numerous other cities and towns.

Tehreek Minhaj-ul-Quran, which has branches all over the world, held a protest in Karachi on November 8. Addressing the protesters, Islamic scholars from the organization, Allama Naeem Ansari and Mirza Junaid Ali, called slandering the Islamic Prophet "the human universe's biggest sin": "Muslims love their Prophet more than they love their lives and they cannot tolerate blasphemy against his honor," they said, adding that the forces of falsehood are challenging the Muslim ummah's dignity of faith." They also called Macron a "terrorist and extremist."[20]

Allama Khadim Hussain Rizvi: "France Is Challenging You; Why Have You Kept The 10th Atom Bomb [Hidden] Inside? Use That Atom Bomb Outside; Declare A Jihad"

On November 7, the TLP held a mass public rally, and hundreds of thousands turned out to defend the Prophet Muhammad's honor. During the rally, which lasted 11 hours, participants marched from the Karachi airport to the Shahrah-e-Quaideen Road. Addressing the protesters, Islamic scholars asked the Pakistani government to expel the French ambassador and ban the import of French products; they also demanded that Pakistan's "federal government declare jihad against the government of France."[21]

TLP emir Allama Khadim Hussain Rizvi, issued the same call: "The federal government [must] declare jihad against the government of France. The French ambassador [must] be expelled from the country. A boycott of French products at the governmental level must be announced. Nothing less than this will be acceptable."[22]

Calling for the killing of all slanderers of Prophet Muhammad everywhere in the world, Allama Khadim Hussain Rizvi stated: "The Prophet is mercy for all the worlds. Allah has created this universe for his beloved [Muhammad]. To leave any blasphemer alive anywhere on the face of the earth is not right. Slandering against the dignity of the Prophet is not acceptable in any condition. Every Muslim considers it an honor and esteem to sacrifice his life for the dignity of the Prophet Muhammad. Even death is acceptable for the honor of the Prophet. The message to blasphemers is that there is no pardon for them now."[23]

Among the group's leading scholars who addressed the protesters were Hafiz Saad Hussain Rizvi, Allama Ghaus Baghdadi, Allama Razi Hussaini, Mufti Qasim Fakhri (a member of the legislative assembly of Sindh province), Muhammad Younus Soomro, Mufti Mubarak Abbas, Sufi Yahya Qadri, Pir Umar Jaan Sirhindi, Allama Wazir Qadri Razvi, Pir Syed Zaman Ali Shah, Allama Bilal Saleem Qadri, Allama Khurram Riaz Shah, Allama Ahmad Raza Amjadi, Allama Abid Mubarak, and Allama Ashraf Gormani.

Earlier, in October 2020, Allama Khadim Hussain Rizvi had urged the Pakistani government to declare jihad against "those who slander the Prophet Muhammad" and asked it to "use the atom bomb" against France. The cleric stated: "Today, France is challenging you [government of Pakistan]. Why have you kept the tenth atom bomb [hidden] inside? Use that atom bomb outside. Use that atom bomb outside. Declare a jihad. [Let] everyone die."[24]

To view this clip on MEMRI TV, click here or below:

Pakistani Journalist Mian Haseeb Madni: "Whoever Chops Off The Head Of The Accursed French President... We Also Announce 50 Million Rupees For Him"

Even journalists have issued threatening calls against the French president. Mian Haseeb Madni, a journalist based in Gujranwala, issued a video statement on Facebook, calling for the beheading of the French president.[25] In the video, posted on Facebook on October 28, 2020 and translated by MEMRI TV, Mian Haseeb Madni says:

"My dear colleagues, friends and all lovers of the Prophet [peace be upon him], my loving salam to all of you. My friends, as the president of France published the blasphemous caricatures of the Prophet [peace be upon him] and supported them, and that accursed and despicable committed such a blasphemy that we will never forgive. We, as Muslims, as a member of the Ummah of the Prophet [peace be upon him], our hearts are saddened, wounded.

"The hearts of the inhabitants of the Faith have been hurt. We all together, we people of all schools of [Islamic] thought, of all sects, we are ready to sacrifice our life in the honor of our Prophet. And to the president of France, I – from Gujranwala – send this message: You dog! You bastard! Control your tongue, ponder your act and reject it and apologize for it. Otherwise, Allah willing, one Muslim or another will arise, and, inshallah, will chop your head off your body. Because our faith is: the punishment for the blasphemer of the Prophet, the head chopped off from the body.

"And for the honor of the Prophet, our life is for sacrifice every moment. We, today the entire journalistic community, in the Gujranwala Press Club, are organizing a protest at 2:30 pm, Allah willing. And before it and after it, different organizations are taking out rallies for the Prophet’s honor. Come and see how proud Muslims are that they are out in the honor of their Prophet, you should drown, O child of the accursed and despicable, you should die. You are still alive. But wait for the time when some Muslim will reach you and, Allah willing, will chop off your head from the body.

"I am warning you, as a Muslim and as a true lover of my Prophet, I am making you beware that you desist from these despicable tactics and deeds, and the Islamophobia that you do. Otherwise, you will reach your termination. And I, from the Gujranwala journalistic community and from myself, make an announcement: whoever chops off the head of the accursed French president from the body, for him, Allah willing, we will serve him his entire life, and we also announce 50 million rupees for him from Gujranwala."

To view this clip on MEMRI TV, click  here or below:

This review gives just a glimpse of how Pakistani society has responded to the cartoon controversy in France. Some of the images below are from the protests and related events in towns and cities in Pakistan:

On November 1, members of Jamaat-e-Islami Pakistan, joined by the city's traders, burned Macron in effigy at a protest rally in Karachi (Source: Roznama Ummat, November 2, 2020)

On November 1, the Karachi unit of Jamaat-e-Islami Pakistan in Karachi city held a mass protest attended by people from all walks of life (Roznama Ummat, November 2, 2020). On November 7, a similar anti-France rally, held by TLP, saw protesters march from the airport to the Mall Road of Karachi. (Source: Roznama Express, November 8, 2020)

Protests were organized on October 27 by the rickshaw drivers' union in Lahore (top right); by residents of the town of Sargodha (top left); by student group Jamiat Tulaba Arabia in Lahore (bottom right); and by Aalami Majlis-e-Khatm-e-Nabuwwat (bottom left), a religious organization devoted to protecting the belief that Muhammad was the last Prophet (Source: Roznama Ummat, October 28, 2020)

On October 31, President Macron was hanged in effigy on the MA Jinnah Road in Karachi in protest against France (Source: Roznama Ummat, November 1, 2020)

On October 28, protesters in the city of Lahore condemned France and demanded a boycott of the French products.[26] The banners read: "I love Muhammad"; "Boycott French products"; "The Muslims of Pakistan are sad over the blasphemy of the Prophet", etc. (Source: Roznama Express, October 29, 2020)

On November 5, Pakistanis gathered in large numbers on the Mall Road of Lahore to protest against the publication in France of cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad. (Source: Roznama Ummat, November 6, 2020)

On November 8, a protest was held in the Shahadra town area of Lahore by the Sunni Tehreek religious organization.(Source: Roznama Ummat, November 9, 2020). The banners held by the religious protesters demand "immediate expulsion of the French ambassador" from Pakistan and condemn "every slanderer of the Prophet, including the French president." (Source: Roznama Ummat, November 9, 2020)

In Karachi's Gulshan-e-Iqbal area on November 8, Tehreek Minhaj-ul-Quran held an anti-France protest rally.[27] The banner bears the image of Canadian-Pakistani Islamic cleric Maulana Tahirul Qadri. (Source: Roznama Ummat, November 9, 2020)

On November 9, real estate agents of the Clifton and Defense areas of Karachi held an anti-France protest. The Urdu text reads: The lovers of Prophet Muhammad will not accept any attack on the honor of their dear Prophet. (Source: Roznama Ummat, November 10, 2020)

* Tufail Ahmad is Senior Fellow for the MEMRI Islamism and Counter-Radicalization Initiative.


[1] BBC and New York Times, September 1, 2020.

[2] Roznama Express (Pakistan), September 8, 2020.

[3] Times of India, September 5, 2020. Roznama Ummat (Pakistan), September 5, 2020.

[4] Roznama Dunya (Pakistan), September 5, 2020.

[5] Roznama Ummat (Pakistan), October 28, 2020.

[10] Roznama Ummat (Pakistan), October 29, 2020.

[11] Roznama Ummat (Pakistan), October 29, 2020.

[12] Roznama Ummat (Pakistan), November 2, 2020.

[13] Roznama Ummat (Pakistan), November 2, 2020.

[14] Roznama Ummat (Pakistan), November 3, 2020.

[15] Roznama Ummat (Pakistan), November 2, 2020.

[16] Roznama Ummat (Pakistan), November 6, 2020.

[17] Roznama Ummat (Pakistan), November 5 and 7, 2020.

[18] Roznama Ummat (Pakistan), November 6, 2020.

[19] MEMRI Inquiry & Analysis Series No. 920, The Ideology And Politics Of Pakistani Religious Leader Dr. Muhammad Tahir-ul-Qadri, January 15, 2013.

[20] Roznama Ummat (Pakistan), November 9, 2020.

[21] Roznama Ummat (Pakistan), November 8, 2020.

[22] Roznama Ummat (Pakistan), November 8, 2020.

[23] Roznama Ummat (Pakistan), November 8, 2020.

[26] Roznama Express (Pakistan), October 29, 2020.

[27] Roznama Ummat (Pakistan), November 9, 2020.

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