ANKARA, Turkey – On Wednesday, Turkish authorities resented French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo for its caricature on the front page, mocking Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, and accused the publication of sowing “seeds of hatred and hostility.”
The caricature could further escalate tensions between Turkey and France over French President Emmanuel Macron’s tough stance against Islamism following the beheading of a teacher who showed cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad as a class lesson on free speech.
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Leaders around the Muslim world have added criticism to attacks on Islam in the West, while France has vowed not to back down from defending freedom of expression.
The cartoons that led to the teacher̵
The caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad have upset many in the Muslim world. But it was Erdogan who led the prosecution against France and questioned Macron’s mental state. France then recalled its ambassador to Turkey for consultations, the first in Franco-Turkish diplomatic relations.
“We strongly condemn the publication concerning our president of the French magazine, which does not respect faith, sacredness and values,” Erdogan’s spokesman Ibrahim Kalin wrote on Twitter.
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Ankara’s Attorney General’s Office has launched an investigation against Charlie Hebdo’s managers in connection with the cartoon, Tukey’s state-run Anatolia news agency reported. Insulting the president is a crime in Turkey, punishable by up to four years in prison.
Erdogan himself said he had not seen the drawing and had nothing to say about the “dishonest” publication.
“My sadness and anger do not stem from the disgusting attack on my man, but from the fact that it (the publication) is the source of a brazen attack on my dear Prophet,” Erdogan told lawmakers of the ruling party in parliament.
He went on to criticize the colonial past of France and other European countries, saying: “You are murderers!”
Tensions between France and Turkey have escalated in recent months over Turkish actions in Syria, Libya and the Nagorno-Karabakh region of the Caucasus Mountains.
The cartoon depicts Erdogan in his underwear holding a drink and lifting the skirt of a woman wearing an Islamic dress.
“I condemn this irreparable immoral post of the French rag against our president,” Turkish Vice President Fuat Oktay wrote on Twitter.
Macron’s position has sparked protests against France in Turkey and other Muslim countries, as well as calls for a boycott of French goods.
French government spokesman Gabriel Attal said the country would not back down from what he called “destabilization efforts, intimidation”.
“France will never give up its principles and values, and in particular its freedom of expression and freedom of publication,” Attalus said.
“These were hateful comments to journalists, to the editorial office, which led to the bloodshed we have seen in recent years in our country,” he said, referring to the 2015 attack on the Charlie Hebdo attack, which killed 12 people and was the first in a series of extremist attacks on France.
In Egypt, a senior Muslim cleric has called on the international community to adopt universal legislation criminalizing anti-Muslim discrimination and activities.
At a meeting dedicated to the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad, Sheikh Ahmed al-Taib, the great imam of Al-Azhar, also condemned the assassination of the French teacher in Paris as a “disgusting and painful murder.”
He said insulting Islam and Muslims has become a tool for mobilizing votes. He called the “offensive cartoons” depicting Muhammad “a clear hostility to this noble religion and its prophet.”
Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi said the insult to the Prophet undermined “high values” believed by many Muslims. “We also have rights; the right not to hurt our feelings and not to offend our values, “he said.
Speaking at a cabinet meeting, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani also took note of the debate.
“If Europe and France strive for rights, ethics and culture, they must withdraw from interfering in Muslim affairs,” Rouhani said.
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Dozens of people gathered in front of the French embassy in Tehran, set fire to the French flag and chanted “Death to France.”
Meanwhile, Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan has written letters to Muslim leaders expressing concern over the “mockery and mockery” of the Islamic Prophet Muhammad and the desecration of the Qur’an in the Western world, especially in Europe.
Khan writes that “covert and overt discrimination” against Muslims is widespread in Europe.
“I believe that the leadership in these countries often acts because of a lack of understanding of the deep passion, love and devotion that Muslims around the world have for their Prophet,” he wrote, urging Muslim leaders to take the initiative to call for an end to this a cycle of hatred and violence.
About 300 members of Pakistan’s Jamaat e Islami radical party gathered in the port city of Karachi to condemn Macron. The demonstrators wanted to go to the French Consulate, but the police stopped them.
In the biblical West Bethlehem city, Muslim and Christian leaders staged a rare interfaith demonstration to condemn Macron’s defense against publishing the cartoons. About 50 people, including dozens of local officials and dignitaries, gathered in front of the Church of the Nativity, where Jesus was traditionally born.
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Greek Orthodox Archbishop Atala Hanna said the council aimed to “send a strong message from the Holy Land that we, Palestinians, Christians and Muslims, reject hate speech and racist speech and always call for brotherhood, peace and love.”