France has urged Middle Eastern countries to end calls for a boycott of its goods in protest at President Emmanuel Macron's defence of the right to show cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad, reports BBC.
The French foreign ministry said the "baseless" calls for a boycott were being "pushed by a radical minority".
French products have been removed from some shops in Kuwait, Jordan and Qatar.
Meanwhile, protests have been seen in Libya, Syria and the Gaza Strip.
The backlash stems from comments made by Mr Macron after the gruesome murder of a French teacher who showed cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad in class.
The president said the teacher, Samuel Paty, "was killed because Islamists want our future", but France would "not give up our cartoons".
Depictions of the Prophet Muhammad can cause serious offence to Muslims because Islamic tradition explicitly forbids images of Muhammad and Allah (God).
On Sunday, Mr Macron doubled down on his defence of French values in a tweet that read: "We will not give in, ever."
Political leaders in Turkey and Pakistan have rounded on Mr Macron, accusing him of not respecting "freedom of belief" and marginalising the millions of Muslims in France.
On Sunday, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan suggested, for a second time, that Mr Macron should seek "mental checks" for his views on Islam.
Similar comments prompted France to recall its ambassador to Turkey for consultations on Saturday.
How widespread is the boycott on French products?
Some supermarket shelves had been stripped of French products in Jordan, Qatar and Kuwait by Sunday. French-made hair and beauty items, for example, were not on display.
In Kuwait, a major retail union has ordered a boycott of French goods.
The non-governmental Union of Consumer Co-operative Societies said it had issued the directive in response to "repeated insults" against the Prophet Muhammad.
In a statement, the French foreign ministry acknowledged the moves, writing: "These calls for boycott are baseless and should stop immediately, as well as all attacks against our country, which are being pushed by a radical minority."
Online, calls for similar boycotts in other Arab countries, such as Saudi Arabia, have been circulating.
A hashtag calling for the boycott of French supermarket chain Carrefour was the second-most trending topic in Saudi Arabia, the Arab world's largest economy.
Meanwhile, small anti-French protests were held in Libya, Gaza and northern Syria, where Turkish-backed militias exert control.
Why is France embroiled in this row?
Mr Macron's robust defence of French secularism and criticism of radical Islam in the wake of Mr Paty's killing has angered some in the Muslim world.
Turkey's Mr Erdogan asked in a speech: "What's the problem of the individual called Macron with Islam and with the Muslims?"
Meanwhile Pakistani leader Imran Khan accused the French leader of "attacking Islam, clearly without having any understanding of it".
"President Macron has attacked and hurt the sentiments of millions of Muslims in Europe & across the world," he tweeted.
Earlier this month, before the teacher's killing, Mr Macron had already announced plans for tougher laws to tackle what he called "Islamist separatism" in France.
He said a minority of France's estimated six million Muslims were in danger of forming a "counter-society", describing Islam as a religion "in crisis".
Cartoons caricaturing the Islamic prophet have a dark and intensely political legacy in France.
In 2015, 12 people were killed in an attack on the offices of French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, which had published the cartoons.
Some in Western Europe's largest Muslim community have accused Mr Macron of trying to repress their religion and say his campaign risks legitimising Islamophobia.
Women’s rights activists in Poland staged protests during Sunday church services in the predominantly Roman Catholic nation against a tightening of the nation’s already restrictive abortion law.
In the fourth straight day of protests, activists held up banners during Masses in some churches, according to Polish media and posts on social media, reports AP.
A young woman in one Warsaw church stood near the altar with a sign that said “Let’s pray for the right to abortion.”
An LGBT rights group, Grupa Stonewall, posted a video showing people protesting in a church in the western Polish city of Poznan, chanting “We’ve had enough!” Churchgoers replied by chanting “Barbarians!”
Some Poles argued on Twitter that people should not bring politics into churches. Others said that Poland’s powerful Catholic Church had involved itself in politics by pushing for a total abortion ban and supporting the country’s right-wing government and far-right organizations in some cases.
The actions on Sunday follow a ruling on Thursday by Poland’s constitutional court that declared that aborting fetuses with congenital defects is unconstitutional. Poland already had one of Europe’s most restrictive abortion laws, and the ruling will result in a near-complete ban on abortion.
Women’s Strike, the organizer of the protests, argues that forcing women to give birth to fetuses with severe defects will result in unnecessary physical and mental suffering.
The organization vowed more protests in the coming week, including blockades of cities on Monday, a nationwide strike by women on Wednesday and street protests on Friday.
The actions are planned at a time when the Polish government is struggling to contain escalating coronavirus cases and anger over restrictions that are harming the economy.
On Sunday, a banner with the slogan “Women’s Hell” was hung on a church fence in Otwock, a town near Warsaw.
The activists also created posters of a crucified pregnant woman intended for hanging outside churches, according to media reports, though it was not immediately clear how many were hung.
Thursday’s ruling came as Poland’s nationalist conservative ruling party has politicized the courts — including the Constitutional Tribunal — and used discriminatory language against LGBT people.
Last week, the president swore in a new education minister who has said that LGBT people are not equal to “normal people,” has argued in support of corporal punishment and said women’s key purpose in life is to have children.
Health Ministry figures show that 1,110 legal abortions were carried out in Poland in 2019, mostly because of fetal defects. The only other legal cases remaining for abortion are rape or incest or if the pregnancy threatens the woman’s life or health.
Spain declared a second nationwide state of emergency Sunday and ordered an overnight curfew across the country in hopes of stemming a resurgence in coronavirus infections, Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez said.
The Socialist leader told the nation in a televised address that the extraordinary measure will go into effect on Sunday night, reports AP.
Sánchez said that his government is using the state of emergency to impose an 11 p.m.-6 a.m. nationwide curfew, except in the Canary Islands.
Spain’s 19 regional leaders will have authority to set different hours for the curfew as long as they are stricter, close regional borders to travel and limit gatherings to six people who don’t live together, the prime minister said.
“The reality is that Europe and Spain are immersed in a second wave of the pandemic,” Sánchez said after meeting with his Cabinet.
The leader added that he would ask Parliament this week to extend the state of emergency for six months, until May.
Sánchez’s government said Saturday night that a majority of Spain’s regional leaders have agreed to a new state of emergency and the meeting Sunday was to study its terms.
The state of emergency gives the national government extraordinary powers, including the ability to temporarily restrict basic freedoms guaranteed in Spain’s Constitution such as the right to free movement.
Spain’s government has already declared two state of emergencies during the pandemic. The first was declared in March to apply a strict home confinement across the nation, close stores and recruit private industry for the national public health fight. It was lifted in June after reigning in the contagion rate and saving hospitals from collapse.
The second went into effect for two weeks in Madrid to force the capital’s reluctant regional leaders to impose travel limits on residents to slow down an outbreak in which new infections were growing exponentially. It lasted until Saturday.
Spanish Health Minister Salvador Illa has said his agency and regional health officials were studying how to apply nightly curfews, perhaps like the 9 p.m. ones already in place in France’s major cities.
The state of emergency would make it easier for authorities to take swift action, avoiding having to get many of the restrictions approved by a judge. Some judges have rejected efforts to limit movement in certain regions, causing confusion among the public.
Government officials on all levels were reticent to impose another complete home lockdown and industry shutdown, given the weakened state of Spain’s economy, which has plunged into a recession and seen its unemployment rolls skyrocket in recent months.
Spain this week became the first European country to surpass 1 million officially recorded COVID-19 cases. But Sánchez admitted Friday in a nationally televised address that the true figure could be more than 3 million, due to gaps in testing and other factors.
Spain on Friday reported almost 20,000 new daily cases and 231 more deaths, taking the country’s death toll in the pandemic to 34,752.
Also read: Spain eases coronavirus restrictions
As the Friday night dinner service began earlier this month at the De Viering restaurant outside Brussels, it seemed the owners’ decision to move the operation into the spacious village church to comply with coronavirus rules was paying off. The reservation book was full and the kitchen was bustling.
And then Belgium’s prime minister ordered cafes, bars and restaurants to close for at least a month in the face of surging infections.
“It’s another shock, of course, because — yes, all the investments are made,” said chef Heidi Vanhasselt. She and her sommelier husband Christophe Claes had installed a kitchen and new toilets in the Saint Bernardus church in Heikruis, as well as committing to 10 months’ rent and pouring energy into creative solutions.
Vanhasselt’s frustration is Europe’s as a resurgence of the coronavirus is dealing a second blow to the continent’s restaurants, which already suffered under lockdowns in the spring. From Northern Ireland to the Netherlands, European governments have shuttered eateries or severely curtailed how they operate.
More than just jobs and revenue are at stake — restaurants lie at the heart of European life. Their closures are threatening the social fabric by shutting the places where neighbors mix, extended families gather and the seeds of new families are sown.
A restaurant remains “a place where very special moments are celebrated,” said Griet Grassin of the Italian restaurant Tartufo on the outskirts of Brussels. “It’s not just the food, but it’s the well-being.”
This time, the closures are particularly painful because they might stretch into the Christmas season, nixing everything from pre-holiday office drinks to a special meal on the day.
When it comes to purely calories and vitamins, “of course we can live without restaurants,” said food historian professor Peter Scholliers.
But, he asked: “We can live without being social? No, we can’t.”
Successful restaurants have always had to adapt quickly — but never has there been a challenge like this.
The European Union said the hotel and restaurant industry suffered a jaw-dropping 79.3% decline in production between February and April. Try bouncing back from that.
Summer, with its drop in COVID-19 cases and a hesitant return to travel, brought some respite, especially in coastal resorts.
But then came fall. Any giddiness that the fallout from the pandemic could somehow be contained faced the sobering reality of relentlessly rising coronavirus cases and hospitalizations. Overall, COVID-19 has killed over 240,000 people across all of Europe. Government leaders are now warning things will get worse before they get better.
But many restaurant owners have bristled at the new round of restrictions, and some are openly challenging them.
In London last week, the preeminent chef Yotam Ottolenghi banged pots on the street to protest restrictions that include earlier closing times.
“It’s really hard, we’ve got a great industry with lots of heart,” Ottolenghi said. “And there’s so many people who depend on it.”
If the mood of any nation is set by its stomach, surely France’s is. And it is turning as sour as a rhubarb tartlet. The streets of Paris, the culinary capital of Lyon and several other French cities were eerily empty at night during the first week of a 9 p.m. curfew scheduled to last for at least a month.
Xavier Denamur, who owns five Parisian cafes and bistros that employ around 70 workers, said the French government is unfairly punishing the industry.
“It’s a catastrophic measure,” he said, arguing any curfew should be pushed to at least 11 p.m. to allow for a proper dinner service.
In Italy, just such a late-night curfew went into effect in Milan — and even that triggered protests.
Still, highlighting how the world is feeling its way in the near darkness, restaurant and food delivery business owner Matteo Lorenzon argued the opposite. “Having a curfew starting at 11 p.m., it’s too late.”
Already in September, more than 400,000 employees of restaurants and cafes in Italy, a nation of 60 million, were unemployed, according to an estimate by Fipe, the restaurant lobby group. Its prediction for the coming months was even more dire: “Hundreds of thousands of jobs risk being erased definitively.”
In the Netherlands, which has one of the highest virus infection rates in Europe, more than 60 Dutch bars and restaurants sought to overturn a monthlong closure order but failed. Lawyer Simon van Zijll, representing the bars and restaurants, warned that the Dutch hospitality industry faces “a tidal wave of bankruptcies.”
The first lockdown in the spring caught the owners of Tartufo, the restaurant on the outskirts of Brussels, off guard.
This time, Grassin and her husband chef Kayes Ghourabi, were ready: They will ramp up their takeaway service and even offer their own gin with Mediterranean spices. Still, income will drop by about 70% to 80%.
“We lose, but it helps the costs. The electricity, the insurance that keep on going, even in a lockdown,” she said.
Across Europe, the stories are the same — of chefs thinking creatively, making something of a bad situation, showing resilience to save something they often built from scratch.
“I have a son, and I always say to my husband, ‘the restaurant was our first child.’ And you want to fight for it,” Grassin said.
Takeout is also a lifeline for Paolo Polli, who owned five bars and restaurants in Milan before closing four recently. His staff was cut from 60 to six. He said he made more money during the lockdown with his pizza-delivery service than when he reopened for regular service.
Down south, a balmy fall offered some reprieve, allowing restaurants to serve on outside terraces.
Despite this, in Portugal, the AHRESP restaurant association said restaurants lost more than half of their revenue. Now the chilly weather, stronger winds and rain are forcing everyone back indoors, where the virus spreads most easily.
“It will be impossible,″ said Artur Veloso, who manages the Risca restaurant in Carcavelos. “Winter will bring more ruin.”
Spain became the first country in western Europe to accumulate more than 1 million confirmed COVID-19 infections on Wednesday as the nation of 47 million struggles to contain a resurgence of the virus.
The health ministry said that its accumulative case load since the start of the pandemic reached 1,005,295 after reporting 16,973 more cases in the past 24 hours.
The ministry attributes 34,366 deaths to COVID-19. Experts say that, as in most countries, the real numbers of infections and deaths are probably much higher because insufficient testing, asymptomatic cases and other issues impede authorities from capturing the true scale of the outbreak.
As the numbers rise, authorities in charge of health policy in Spain’s regions are tightening restrictions. They want to stem the surge that has been building in recent months while avoiding a second total lockdown of home confinements that stemmed the first wave of the virus but left the economy reeling.
The regional government of northern Aragón announced Wednesday they have closed the city limits of Zaragoza, Huesca and Teruel. Neighboring Navarra, which leads Spain in infections per 100,000 over 14 days, is preparing to become the first Spanish region to close its borders on Thursday. La Rioja will also close its regional borders on Friday.
Spain’s Health Minister Salvador Illa and regional heads of health will meet on Thursday to discuss their virus strategies and consider employing nightly curfews to target late-night partying as a source of contagion.
“I want to be very clear,” Illa said Tuesday. “Some very hard weeks are coming.”
France is not far behind in western Europe with over 930,000 reported cases. Russia has reported over 1.4 million cases. The U.S. leads the world with over 8 million reported cases, according to the Johns Hopkins tally that is considered a global standard for charting the progress of the pandemic.
Spain’s cases per 100,000 inhabitants over 14 days, which is a more reliable indicator of the evolution of the virus, has decreased in recent days. It currently sits at 332 cases per 100,000, a figure that is still worrying but now lower than the Czech Republic, Belgium, Netherlands, France and Britain.
Despite the higher number of asymptomatic cases found through improved testing, the pressure is being felt in Spain’s hospitals. Over 3,900 patients have required hospitalization over the past week, with 274 needing intensive care, the ministry said. Almost 40% of Madrid’s ICU units are occupied by COVID-19 patients.