Hundreds of protesters in Pakistan on Sunday burned effigies of France's leader and chanted anti-French slogans, as President Emmanuel Macron tried to send a message of understanding to Muslims around the world. The demonstrations, which followed anti-France protests across the Muslim world last week, came after Macron's interview late Saturday in which he said that he understood the shock Muslims felt at caricatures depicting the Prophet Muhammad. In speaking with the Qatar-based Arabic TV station Al-Jazeera, the AP reports, Macron also defended freedoms of expression and France's secular values. Macron's office said the interview was aimed at clarifying misunderstandings around France's position and the president's words, which they say have been taken out of context.
"I have never said that," Macron said, explaining that some false translations of his words in the media showed him to support the cartoons mocking Prophet Muhammad. "Those are lies." Macron added: "I understand and respect that people can be shocked by these cartoons. But I will never accept that someone can justify the use of physical violence because of these cartoons." The interview set off a storm on social media, as many argued the Qatari station erred by giving space to the French president, whom they said failed to apologize for offending Muslims. But for others, Macron's appearance on Al-Jazeera was hailed as a success of the protest and boycott campaigns, which have forced the French president to address Muslims through an Arabic-speaking channel. (Macron said last week that France would not concede to terrorists.)