Clashes as Crowds Protest French Anti-Islam Cartoons

Protesters staged a rally near the French embassy in Beirut on Friday in protest against the French president's defense of the right to publish cartoons seen as offensive to Islam.

Protesters from different regions including crowds who emerged from mosques after Friday prayers, joined the demonstration near the Pine Residence -- the official residence of the French ambassador to Lebanon -- to protest insulting cartoons of Prophet Mohammed and French President Emmanuel Macron's stances.

The protesters found their way blocked by lines of police officers in riot gear. Waving black and white flags with Islamist insignia, the protesters activists cried, "At your service, oh prophet of God."

One protester at the demonstration, called by Lebanon's branch of the Islamist Hizb ut-Tahrir group, held a cartoon portraying Macron as a snake.

"France is in crisis because of Macron," read his sign in Arabic and French. "Islam is dear" to us.

Macron earlier this month described Islam as a religion "in crisis" worldwide.

Some protesters later started hurling stones at security forces.

Using smoke and tear grenades, security forces managed to push the groups away from the Pine Residence towards the vicinity of Barbir, reportedly making arrests.

Anger grew in the Muslim world over France's response to the beheading of a teacher who had shown his pupils cartoon images depicting the Prophet Mohammed as part of a class on free speech.

French President Emmanuel Macron has vigorously defended the publication of cartoons, sparking angry protests across swathes of the Muslim world and campaigns to boycott French products in a number of Arab countries.

Source: Naharnet, Agence France Presse, Associated Press

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