Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan invoked the Holocaust in condemning France’s crackdown on radical Islam, calling it part of Europe’s history of criminality against members of minority religions.
In a speech Monday in Ankara, Erdogan slammed French President Emmanuel Macron’s recently announced plan to combat radical Islam by banning home schooling and dissolving some nonprofit organizations, among other measures.
“The rising Islamophobia in the West has turned into a wholesale attack on our book, our prophet, and everything we consider holy,” Erdogan said. “Relocations, inquisitions and genocides toward members of different religions is not a practice that is foreign to Europe. The crimes against humanity committed against Jews 80 years ago, the acts against our Bosnian siblings in Srebrenica just 25 years ago, are still in the memory.”
He also said: “You are in a real sense fascists. You are in a real sense the links in the chain of Nazism.”
Erdogan’s comments came just days after he said Macron “needs mental treatment” and called for a boycott of French products at a meeting of his Islamist AKP party, Le Figaro reported. In response, France recalled its ambassador from Ankara over what the French foreign minister called an “insult.”
In a statement Monday, the president of CRIF, the umbrella group of French Jewish communities, urged France to take a firm line on Erdogan, whom he called “the tyrant of Ankara.”
France “must not become the new arena for Erdogan’s follies,” said Francis Kalifat.
Erdogan has led the charge against Macron over his robust defense 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-labeled goods. Don’t buy them,” Erdogan said, during a televised speech in Ankara.
After Turkey was accused by France of remaining silent over the teacher’s killing on October 16, Erdogan’s spokesman, Ibrahim Kalin, on Monday denounced the “monstrous murder,” adding “nothing” could justify the attack.
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 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 have become identified with a proud secular tradition dating back to the Revolution.
In the aftermath of Paty’s murder, Macron issued a passionate defense 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.
“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,” German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s spokesman Steffen Seibert said.
The prime ministers of Italy, 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.”
Italy’s Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte tweeted, “Personal insults don’t help the positive agenda the EU wants to have with Turkey but pushes solutions further away.”
‘We will not give in’
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 fueled 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.
But Macron on Sunday was defiant on Twitter.
“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,” he said.
‘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 terror group Hamas, the Taliban, the Lebanese terror group Hezbollah and Morocco have also spoken out against France.
A few dozen anti-Macron protesters rallied for the second day in a row in the Gaza Strip, stamping a photo of the French president with a red cross covering his face on the French cultural center’s façade.
More protests were planned for 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.”