Turkish officials on Wednesday railed against French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo over its cover-page cartoon mocking Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and accused it of sowing “the seeds of hatred and animosity.”
The cartoon could further heighten tensions between Turkey and France, which erupted over French President Emmanuel Macron’s firm stance against Islamism following the beheading of a teacher who showed his class caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad for a free speech class.
The cartoons upset many in the Muslim world. But it was Erdogan who led the charge against France and questioned Macron’s mental state. France then recalled its ambassador to Turkey for consultations, a first in French-Turkish diplomatic relations.
“We strongly condemn the publication concerning our president of the French magazine, which has no respect to faith, the sacred and values,” Erdogan’s spokesman, Ibrahim Kalin, wrote on Twitter.
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Kalin said: “The aim of these publications, that are devoid of morality and decency, is to sow seeds of hatred and animosity. To turn freedom of expression into hostility towards religion and belief can only be the product of a sick mentality.”
The cartoon depicted Erdogan in his underwear holding a drink and lifting the skirt of a woman wearing an Islamic dress.
“I condemn this incorrigible French rag’s immoral publication concerning our president,” Turkish Vice President Fuat Oktay wrote on Twitter. “I call on the moral and conscientious international community to speak out against this disgrace.”
The foundation representing the Chief Rabbinate of Turkey also released a statement condemning the cartoon and supporting Erdogan.
“We strongly condemn the disgusting and insulting publication of the French magazine Charlie Hebdo targeting our President and religious beliefs,” the foundation said on Twitter. “It is unacceptable to consider this kind of violation of individual rights, as ‘humor and freedom of expression.”
Macron’s stance sparked anti-France protests in Turkey and in other Muslim countries as well as calls for the boycott of French good.
Tensions between France and Turkey have mounted in recent months over Turkish actions in Syria, Libya and the Caucasus Mountains region of Nagorno-Karabakh.