12,000 Muslims protest on Temple Mount against Macron

The timing of the holiday, alongside outrage over Macron’s comments on Islam, is thought to be the cause of the massive turnout.

By Lauren Marcus, World Israel News

Some 12,000 Muslims participated in a mass protest last Friday at the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, chanting slogans against French President Emmanuel Macron.

According to the Israeli police, the protesters shouted phrases including “With our souls and with our blood, we sacrifice for our prophet, Muhammad,” and “Macron is an enemy of God.”

As protesters clashed with police, three people were arrested.

While Friday prayers at the third holiest site in Islam typically draw large crowds, last Friday was the Mawlid holiday, which marks the birthday of the Prophet Mohammed.

The holiday, coupled with outrage over Macron’s comments on Islam, are thought to be the cause of the massive turnout.

The Jerusalem municipality criticized the Israeli police for not enforcing coronavirus restrictions. Many of the protesters did not wear masks and failed to abide by social distancing guidelines.

“In the midst of severe restrictions aimed at cutting the chain of infection, particularly in the Arab community, we are puzzled by the decision to allow thousands of people to gather at the Temple Mount. This is very irresponsible,” the city said in a statement.

On Thursday, Sheikh Ikrima Sabri, head of the Palestinian Islamic Supreme Council, declared a “day of rage” on Friday regarding “attempts to harm” the Prophet Mohammed.

Sabri’s remarks came on the heels of global Muslim backlash against Macron’s comments on Islam. Protests over Macron’s remarks have taken place across the globe, with mass protests held in Turkey, Bangladesh, Iran and Pakistan.

In early October, Macron said in a speech that Islam was a faith “in crisis all over the world” and that the time had come for reforms to the religion.

There is a need for “an Islam of Enlightenment,” he said.

Just two weeks after Macron’s speech, a French schoolteacher who showed caricatures of the Prophet Mohammed to his class as part of a lesson on free expression was beheaded.

After the murder, Macron doubled down on his comments, saying that while he understood Muslim anger at the caricatures, his role as president means that he must uphold the French value of freedom of speech.

“I understand the sentiments being expressed and I respect them. But you must understand my role right now, it’s to do two things: to promote calm and also to protect these rights [free speech],” he said.