The Islamic world’s anger at France deepened today as Turkey condemned a Charlie Hebdo cartoon showing its president Recep Tayyip Erdogan lifting a woman’s burka to look at her naked backside.
Erdogan called the cartoonists ‘scoundrels’ and accused the West of wanting to ‘relaunch the Crusades’ by attacking Islam after the image appeared on the front of this week’s magazine.
‘I don’t need to say anything to those scoundrels who insult my beloved prophet on such a scale,’ Erdogan said, calling it a ‘disgusting attack’.
Showing Erdogan in a T-shirt and underpants, the caricature has Erdogan saying ‘Ooh, the Prophet’ as he looks at the woman’s backside, and comes with the caption: ‘Erdogan – in private he’s very funny’.
A Charlie Hebdo cartoon showing the naked Prophet’s backside was the image which French school teacher Samuel Paty showed to his class in the lesson which led to his murder and beheading earlier this month.
French president Emmanuel Macron has staunchly defended free expression and the right to mock religion in the wake of the terror attack, but has become a target of anger in the Islamic world.
Turkey has vowed to take ‘legal, diplomatic actions’ in response to the cartoon while Iran’s president Hassan Rouhani also took aim at France today by warning that insulting the Prophet would encourage ‘violence and bloodshed’.
Rouhani said that ‘the West should understand that… insulting the Prophet is insulting all Muslims, all prophets, all human values, and trampling ethics’.
‘Insulting the prophet is no achievement. It’s immoral. It’s encouraging violence,’ Rouhani said in a televised speech during the weekly cabinet meeting.
‘It’s a surprise that this would come from those claiming culture and democracy, that they would somehow, even if unintentionally, encourage violence and bloodshed,’ he added.
Rouhani also called on the West to ‘stop interfering in Muslims’ internal affairs’ if it ‘truly seeks to achieve peace, equality, calm and security in today’s societies’.
European leaders have come to Macron’s defence in his row with Erdogan, with Britain’s foreign secretary Dominic Raab today calling on NATO allies to stand together in defence of tolerance and free speech.
‘The UK stands in solidarity with France and the French people in the wake of the appalling murder of Samuel Paty,’ Raab said in a veiled rebuke to Turkey.
Erdogan has accused the French leader of an ‘anti-Islam agenda’ and tangled with him on other issues including Syria and the Mediterranean.
The Ankara prosecutor’s office said it was launching an investigation into the publication of the cartoon.
‘French president Macron’s anti-Muslim agenda is bearing fruit,’ Erdogan’s top press aide Fahrettin Altun said today.
Altun said the image was a ‘most disgusting effort by this publication to spread its cultural racism and hatred’.
‘Charlie Hebdo just published a series of so-called cartoons full of despicable images purportedly of our President,’ he said.
Turkey’s vice president Fuat Oktay also condemned the ‘immoral publication’ by what he called an ‘incorrigible French rag’.
‘I call on the moral and conscientious international community to speak out against this disgrace,’ the vice president said.
Macron has vowed that France will stick to its secular traditions and laws guaranteeing freedom of speech which allow publications such as Charlie Hebdo to produce inflammatory cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed.
The French government has also shut down a Paris mosque and raided other Islamic associations in the wake of Paty’s killing in the Paris suburbs earlier this month.
Paty showed his students some of the cartoons in a lesson on free speech, leading to an online campaign against him which ended in his grisly murder.
An attack on Charlie Hebdo by jihadists in 2015 left 12 people dead, including some of its most famed cartoonists.Macron’s defence of Charlie Hebdo, and his recent comment that Islam worldwide is ‘in crisis’, have prompted Erdogan to urge Turks to boycott French products.
Macron’s stance has also sparked anti-France protests in Turkey and in other Muslim countries including Bangladesh.
Tehran summoned a senior French envoy, the charge d’affaires, and the Saudi foreign ministry posted on Twitter to denounce ‘the offensive cartoons of the Prophet’.
Malaysia’s opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim slammed Macron’s comments on Islam being in crisis as ‘offensive’ and ‘unreasonable’, adding in a statement: ‘With freedom comes responsibility.’
Macron has also drawn fire in Pakistan and Morocco, while the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas, the Taliban in Afghanistan and the Lebanese Shiite movement Hezbollah have also spoken out against France.
Previously, European leaders including German chancellor Angela Merkel had defended Macron after Erdogan suggested he needed ‘mental checks’.
‘They are defamatory comments that are completely unacceptable, particularly against the backdrop of the horrific murder of the French teacher Samuel Paty by an Islamist fanatic,’ Merkel’s spokesman Steffen Seibert said.
On Tuesday, Dutch PM Mark Rutte came to the defence of his country’s far-right politician Geert Wilders after Erdogan brought legal action against him.
Wilders had shared a cartoon of the Turkish president wearing an Ottoman hat shaped like a bomb with a lit fuse on Twitter.
‘I have a message for President Erdogan and that message is simple: In the Netherlands, freedom of expression is one of our highest values,’ Rutte said.