ANKARA: Turkey’s president said on Wednesday that Western countries mocking Islam wanted to “relaunch the Crusades”, heightening a confrontation with France over cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) that have stirred anger in Muslim-majority countries.
In a speech to lawmakers of his AK Party in parliament, President Tayyip Erdogan said that standing against attacks on the Prophet (PBUH) was “an issue of honour for us”, suggesting Ankara may be digging in for a prolonged standoff.
The row with France flared after a French teacher who showed pupils cartoons of the Prophet (PBUH) published in the French satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo was beheaded in France this month.
In a sign of spreading anger at France’s defence of the right to publish the cartoons, demonstrators denounced France in street protests in several Muslim-majority countries. Furthering Turkish anger, Charlie Hebdo published a cartoon on its cover ridiculing the Turkish president.
Turkish officials said Ankara would take legal and diplomatic steps in response to the caricature, calling it a “disgusting effort” to “spread its cultural racism and hatred”. The Turkish foreign ministry summoned the charge d’affaires at the French embassy over the magazine cover.
Erdogan said he had not seen the caricature “because I consider it wrong to even look at these immoral publications” and that his anger was over disrespect towards the Prophet (PBUH) rather than the “disgusting attack directed at me”.
The West was “once again headed to a period of barbarity”, he said, describing colonial powers as “murderers” for their record in Africa and the Middle East.
“They literally want to relaunch the Crusades. Since the Crusades, the seeds of evil and hatred have started falling on these (Muslim) lands and that’s when peace was disrupted.”
Macron has said he would redouble efforts to stop conservative Islamic beliefs subverting French values.France’s foreign ministry on Tuesday issued safety advice to French citizens in Indonesia, Turkey, Bangladesh, Iraq and Mauritania, advising them to exercise caution. They were told to stay away from any protests over the cartoons and avoid any public gatherings.
Published in Dawn, October 29th, 2020