Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan expressed his outrage on Wednesday at a “disgusting” cartoon in the French satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo showing him lifting a woman’s skirt while drinking beer in his underpants.
Erdogan’s office vowed to take “legal and diplomatic action” while Turkish TV NTV said Ankara also summoned the second-most senior diplomat from the French embassy to express his “condemnation closed”.
Under normal circumstances, the French ambassador would have been summoned, but he was recalled to Paris for consultations, a further sign of the deterioration of diplomatic relations between the two NATO allies.
The Charlie Hebdo cartoon on the cover came out just days after Erdogan called for a boycott of French goods and questioned the sanity of President Emmanuel Macron for promoting a campaign against Islamic extremism.
Macron’s defense of the media’s right to laugh at religion – as evidenced by Charlie Hebdo’s blasphemous cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad – sparked protests of anger across Turkey and in parts of the Muslim world.
Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on Wednesday became the latest Islamic figure to criticize the French president, saying his defense of the prophet’s cartoons was a “stupid act” and an “insult” to those who have voted for him.
“Ask (Macron) why he supports insulting God’s messenger in the name of free speech. Does free speech mean insulting, especially a sacred figure?” Khamenei said in a message to “French youth” on his official website.
Erdogan said he had not personally seen the Charlie Hebdo cartoon because he did not want to “give credit to such immoral posts”.
“I don’t need to say anything to these scoundrels who insult my beloved prophet on such a scale,” Erdogan said in a speech to lawmakers in his party.
“I am sad and frustrated not because of this disgusting attack on me personally, but because of the impertinence aimed at our prophet whom we love more than ourselves.”
Turkey is a predominantly Muslim but officially secular country that followed a more conservative and nationalist path under Erdogan’s reign.
‘Vicious and ugly’
Macron’s defense of Charlie Hebdo’s right to publish cartoons of the prophet, which is banned under Islam, came after the brutal murder on October 16 of a schoolteacher who showed cartoons to students during a class discussion on freedom of expression.
The magazine was also targeted by jihadists in a 2015 massacre that killed 12 people, including some of its most famous cartoonists.
Turkish officials accuse Macron of unfairly targeting Muslims and cultivating a culture that encourages Charlie Hebdo to use his right to offend.
Over the past week, protests and rallies have taken place in many Muslim-majority countries to denounce Macron.
Tens of thousands of people marched in the Bangladeshi capital Dhaka on Tuesday.
In Syria, protesters burned photos of Macron and French flags, while others gathered in the Indian city of Mumbai and parts of the Gaza Strip on Wednesday.
“If European statesmen want peace and stability in their countries, they must honor the dignity of Muslims, respecting their values,” protester Ozgur Bursali said during a rally outside the French embassy in Ankara, the Turkish capital.
Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan wrote to leaders of Muslim countries on Wednesday calling on them to act together against Islamophobia, while a large Kuwaiti supermarket chain said most of its stores had stripped their shelves of French products.
But Macron was strongly defended by his fellow European leaders and he won support from India on Wednesday under the leadership of Hindu nationalist Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
“We strongly deplore the personal attacks in unacceptable language against President Emmanuel Macron in violation of the most basic standards of international discourse,” said a statement from the Indian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
French government spokesman Gabriel Attal said his country “will never give up its principles and values” with regard to media freedom and the fight against Islamic extremism.
France on Wednesday officially shut down a group called Barakacity, accused of inciting hatred and justifying terrorist acts.
Erdogan’s policies have put Turkey at increasing disagreement with the European Union, and Macron has become one of the Turkish leader’s most vocal critics.
The two statesmen clashed over the Eastern Mediterranean as well as over Turkey’s policies across the Middle East and – more recently – in the war between Azerbaijani and Armenian separatist forces in Nagorno-Karabakh.
French European Affairs Minister Clément Beaune said Paris “would push for strong European responses, including sanctions” against Erdogan’s series of “provocations”.
(Except for the title, this story was not edited by GalacticGaming staff and is posted from a syndicated feed.)