Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Monday joined calls for a boycott of French goods, ramping up a standoff between France and Muslim countries over Islam and freedom of speech.
Erdogan has led the charge against President Emmanuel Macron over his robust defence of the right to mock religion following the murder of a French schoolteacher who had shown his class cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed.
On Monday, the Turkish leader added his voice to calls in the Arab world for citizens to spurn French goods.
“Never give credit to French-labelled goods, don’t buy them,” Erdogan, who caused a furore at the weekend by declaring that Macron needed “mental checks,” said during a televised speech in Ankara.
French goods have already been pulled from supermarket shelves in Qatar and Kuwait, among other Gulf states, whereas in Syria people have burned pictures of Macron and French flags have been torched in the Libyan capital Tripoli.
The October 16 beheading of high-school teacher Samuel Paty by a Chechen extremist caused deep shock in France.
Paty had shown his pupils some of the Mohammed cartoons over which 12 people were massacred at the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo in 2015.
Depictions of the Prophet Mohammed are seen as offensive by many Muslims, but in France such cartoons are seen as part of a proud anticlerical tradition dating back to the Revolution.
In the aftermath of Paty’s murder, Macron issued a passionate defence of free speech and France’s secular values, vowing that the country “will not give up cartoons.”
As the backlash over France’s reaction widened, European leaders rallied behind Macron.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel condemned Erdogan’s “defamatory” remarks about the French leader.
The prime ministers of the Netherlands and Greece also expressed support for France, as did European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen.
“President Erdogan’s words addressing President @EmmanuelMacron are unacceptable,” Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte tweeted, adding that the Netherlands stood “for the freedom of speech and against extremism and radicalism.”
Muslims Treated ‘Like Jews’
Erdogan on Monday compared the treatment of Muslims in Europe to that of Jews before World War II, saying they were the object of a “lynching campaign.”
“You are in a real sense fascists, you are in a real sense the links in the chain of Nazism,” he said, calling on Europe to end its “Macron-led hate campaign” against Muslims.
France has been targeted in a string of jihadist attacks that have killed over 250 people since 2015 and led to deep soul-searching over the impact of Islam on the country’s core values.
Some of the attackers have cited the Mohammed cartoons as well as France’s ban on wearing the Islamic face veil in public among their motives.
Several suspected Islamist radicals have been arrested in dozens of raids since Paty’s murder, and about 50 organizations with alleged links to such individuals have been earmarked for closure by the government.
Earlier this month, Macron unveiled a plan to defend France’s secular values against a trend of “Islamist separatism,” and described Islam as a religion “in crisis.”
His stance has fuelled tensions with Turkey particularly.
On Saturday, Paris announced it was recalling its envoy to Ankara after Erdogan, who has styled himself a defender of Muslims worldwide, questioned Macron’s sanity.
‘Resist The Blackmail’
Macron has also drawn fire in other Muslim-majority countries.
Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan accused Macron of “attacking Islam,” while the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas, the Taliban, the Lebanese Shiite movement Hezbollah and Morocco have also spoken out against France.
Fresh anti-France protests are planned Monday in the Gaza Strip, and on Tuesday in Amman.
France’s largest employers’ federation on Monday urged companies to “resist the blackmail” over the boycott calls.
“There is a time to put principles above business,” Medef chief Geoffroy Roux de Bezieux told broadcaster RMC. “It is a question of sticking to our republican values.