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The New Arab Staff & Agencies

Turkey says offensive cartoons of prophet seek to intimidate Muslims

Macron has said France will 'not give up cartoons' that offend Muslims [Getty]

Date of publication: 25 October, 2020

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Turkey and France have continued to trade barbs over Paris' approach towards Muslims and Islam.

Turkey said on Sunday "offensive caricatures" of the Prophet Mohammed were being used to intimidate Muslims in Europe under the guise of freedom of expression. 

European attitudes demonising Muslims were 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.

Altun's comments came a day after France recalled its ambassador following a statement from Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in which he suggested Macron needed "mental checks".

"The dog whistle politics of offensive caricatures, accusations of separatism against Muslims, and mosque raids isn't about freedom of expression," Altun tweeted in English.

"It's about intimidating and reminding Muslims that they are welcome to keep the European economy going, but they will never belong — against the backdrop of lectures about integration.

"Everything we see about Muslims in European public culture today is eerily familiar to the demonisation of the European Jewry in the 1920s," he added.

Relations between Macron and Erdogan have becoming increasingly strained over a number of issues.

They include French support for Greece in its dispute with Turkey over maritime rights in the eastern Mediterranean, and French criticism of Turkey's involvement in Libya, Syria and the conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan over Nagorno-Karabakh.

The debate over France's policies toward Muslims was given new impetus by the murder this month in France of a teacher who showed his class a cartoon of the prophet Mohammed. 

Macron vowed this week his country would not "give up cartoons" depicting the prophet.

Visual representation of the prophets is strictly forbidden in Islam and to ridicule or insult the Prophet Mohammed is punishable by death in some Muslim countries.

"Some European leaders today do not just target Muslims in their midst. They attack our sacred values, our scripture, our prophet and our political leaders — our way of life," said Altun.

He said Europeans needed to understand: "Muslims won't go away because you don't want us. We won't turn the other cheek when you insult us. We will defend ourselves and our own at all costs."



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