An Islamist group in Pakistan has called off its anti-France protests after the Pakistani government has announced a boycott of French products.
The group had taken their sentiments to the streets after France defended the right to show cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad. President Macron has strongly defended French secularism in the wake of the beheading of a school teacher who showed the cartoons during a class discussion.
The cartoon had fueled anger in parts of the Muslim community. Depictions of the Prophet Muhammad are widely regarded as taboo in Islam and are considered highly offensive by a lot of Muslims, according to DailyMail.
Members of the TLP or the Tehreek-e-Labaik group brandished copies of an agreement bearing the signatures of at least two ministers. Later on November 17, the government indicated the issue was still unresolved and it also has not confirmed how any boycott would work.
Zahid Hafeez Chaudhry, the foreign office spokesman, told BBC that Pakistan has not taken a decisions as of now and the media will be informed when the time comes.
The prime minister of Pakistan, Imran Khan, had been among the political leaders who criticized Mr. Macron for comments about Islamism in France. However, groups like the TLP had demanded more action.
Supporters had blocked a key road leading to Islamabad since November 15, causing widespread disruption. But the sit-in has now been called off after TLP leaders said that the government had agreed to their demands.
Ejaz Ashrafi, a spokesman for the group, told Reuters that they are calling off their protests after the government signed an agreement that it will officially endorse boycotting French products.
The agreement carries the signatures of the minister for religious affairs and the interior minister. It also says the government will also let parliament decide if the French ambassador should be expelled from Pakistan. The Pakistani government has not commented yet on the deal.
Crime of blasphemy
The TLP has previously gathered huge crowds to protest over blasphemy issues. Under Pakistani law those who are found guilty of insulting the Prophet Muhammad can face the death penalty.
In France, state secularism is important to the country's national identity. The freedom of expression in schools and in other public places is part of that and curbing it to protect the feelings of a religion is seen as undermining the national unity.
The satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, which was targeted in a deadly jihadist attack in Paris back in 2015 over cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad, also mocks other religions including Judaism and Catholicism.
The foreign ministry of France had earlier called appeals for the boycott of French goods in several Muslim-majority countries as baseless and added that they should stop immediately.
Paying tribute to the teacher who was beheaded in October, President Macron said that France will not give up their cartoons. Just two weeks before the attack, President Macron described Islam as a religion in crisis and announced new measures to tackle what he called Islamist separatism in France.
France is known to have the largest Muslim population in Western Europe.