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Turkey says Muslims in Europe being demonized, like Jews in 1920s

In intensifying spat with France, Ankara says ‘offensive caricatures’ of the Prophet Mohammed being used to intimidate Muslims under the guise of freedom of expression

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan delivers a speech on the stage of the conference room at Huber Mansion in Istanbul, on March 31, 2019. (BULENT KILIC / AFP)
Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan delivers a speech on the stage of the conference room at Huber Mansion in Istanbul, on March 31, 2019. (BULENT KILIC / AFP)

As tensions continue to flare between Ankara and Paris, Turkey said Sunday that “offensive caricatures” of the Prophet Mohammed were being used to intimidate Muslims in Europe under the guise of freedom of expression.

European attitudes demonizing Muslims are reminiscent of how the Jews in Europe were treated in the 1920s, said Fahrettin Altun, communications director at the Turkish presidency.

French President Emmanuel Macron’s policies to defend his country against radical Islam have angered Turkey, which is predominantly Muslim even if officially a secular country.

Earlier Sunday, the EU’s top diplomat Josep Borrell condemned Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan for making what he described as “unacceptable” comments about Macron. On Saturday, France had said it was recalling its envoy to Turkey for consultations after Erdogan said Macron needed his mental health checked.

“The remarks by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan regarding President Emmanuel Macron are unacceptable,” Borrell tweeted. “Call to Turkey to cease this dangerous spiral of confrontation.”

Erdogan accused Macron of having a “problem” with Islam and with Muslims for defending the right to show cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed — an act for which a French schoolteacher was murdered last week.

French President Emmanuel Macron speaks in front of a high school in Conflans Sainte-Honorine, northwest of Paris, after a history teacher who opened a discussion with students on caricatures of Islam’s Prophet Muhammad was beheaded, October 16, 2020. (Abdulmonam Eassa, Pool via AP)

France and Turkey are at loggerheads over a range of issues including maritime rights in the eastern Mediterranean, Libya, Syria and the conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan over Nagorno-Karabakh.

And ties between Ankara and Brussels are similarly fraught, particularly with regard to Turkey’s oil and gas exploration activities in the eastern Mediterranean.

At a summit at the beginning of October, EU leaders adopted a carrot and stick approach, offering Ankara the prospect of closer ties and better trade if it commits to “pursuing dialogue in good faith and abstaining from unilateral actions.”

But it warned that the EU was prepared to use sanctions — possibly including broad-based economic measures — if Turkey persists with what Brussels sees as the illegal infringement of Cypriot waters.

“The conclusions of the European Council entail a real offer to relaunch our relationship, but political willingness is needed on the part of the Turkish authorities on this positive agenda,” Borrell tweeted on Sunday.

“Otherwise, Turkey will be even more isolated,” he added.

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