Turkish president calls for boycott on French goods to stop Macron’s 'campaign of hate' against Muslims

Ben Farmer
·4 min read
A child holds a photograph of Emmanuel Macron, stamped with a shoe mark, during a protest against France in Istanbul - AP Photo/Emrah Gurel
A child holds a photograph of Emmanuel Macron, stamped with a shoe mark, during a protest against France in Istanbul - AP Photo/Emrah Gurel

Turkey's president has called for a boycott of French goods as his stand-off with counterpart Emmanuel Macron over Islam and free speech escalated sharply.

Recep Tayyip Erdogan accused the French president of leading a hate campaign against Muslims and accused unnamed Western leaders of being fascists for championing Islamophobia.

"You are in a real sense fascists, you are in a real sense the links in the chain of Nazism," he said. “Muslims are now subjected to a lynch campaign similar to that against Jews in Europe before World War II."

The spat comes after years of strained relations between Paris and Ankara and follow Mr Erdogan's earlier jibes that Mr Macron had a problem with Muslims and needed checks on his mental health.

Protesters burned Mr Macron's likeness in Quetta, Pakistan -  JAMAL TARAQAI/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock
Protesters burned Mr Macron's likeness in Quetta, Pakistan - JAMAL TARAQAI/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

Mr Macron's declaration that he would not give up cartoons depicting Prophet Mohammed following the beheading of a French teacher outside Paris continued to cause has caused widespread anger in the Muslim world.

French goods have already been pulled from supermarket shelves in Qatar and Kuwait, among other Gulf states. Syrians have burned pictures of Mr Macron and French flags have been torched in the Libyan capital Tripoli.

Pakistan's government on Monday summoned the French ambassador to condemn what it called the deliberate fanning of religious hatred for electoral gain.

Adding to the chorus of condemnation, Libya's UN-recognised Government of National Accord on Monday "firmly condemned" Mr Macron's comments and demanded that he apologise.

Mr Macron's comments "harm relations between France and the Muslim world and feed feelings of hatred for political gain", the Tripoli-based GNA's foreign ministry said in a statement.  

France was shocked earlier this month when Samuel Paty was murdered by a Chechen extremist after he had shown cartoons of the prophet during a class he was leading on free speech.

In the aftermath of Mr Paty's murder, Mr Macron issued a passionate defence of free speech and France's secular values, vowing that the country "will not give up cartoons".

Mr Erdogan on Monday appealed to the European Union to stop “Macron’s campaign of hate” against Muslims.

The German government on Monday called Mr Erdogan's attacks "defamatory" and "unacceptable" and expressed "solidarity" with Paris.

There are fears in France that the comments by Mr Khan and Mr Erdogan will widen the gulf between mainstream society and French Muslims.

Hasni Abidi, a political analyst and head of the Mediterranean and Arab World Research Centre, told the Telegraph: “We can expect a radicalisation of opinions, with many already believing that France is against them, against their religion.”

But he stressed that young people in France’s suburban ghettoes, where unemployment among under-25s is about 45 per cent, are “disconnected" from broadcast news media and newspapers.

“The youth pay little attention to what happens outside France. They will not be much affected by the condemnation of the cartoons [of the Prophet Muhammad] by countries such as Turkey, Pakistan, Jordan and Morocco. But among adults, this will legitimise a sense of grievance,” Dr Abidi said.

The growing calls for boycotts of French goods stem from a social media campaign “orchestrated by Turkish networks, Qatari activists and the Muslim Brotherhood,” French government sources said. “A radical minority is spreading the false message that studying the Charlie Hebdo cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad is compulsory in French schools,” a diplomatic source said.

Emmanuel Macron vowed to hold firm in a tweet in Arabic and English on Sunday night: “We will not give in, ever. We respect all differences in a spirit of peace. We do not accept hate speech and defend reasonable debate. We will always be on the side of human dignity and universal values.”

Morocco is the latest country to condemn the publication of “offensive” cartoons in France. A foreign ministry statement said: “Morocco denounces these provocations offending the sacredness of the Islamic religion”. It also condemned “savage” acts perpetrated in the name of Islam.