This Monday, October 26, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan reacted to the responses formulated by Emmanuel Macron to him by calling on the Turks to boycott French products. One way for the Turkish head of state to condemn the treatment of Muslims in France and to condemn Emmanuel Macron’s words defending the freedom to caricature the Prophet Muhammad and freedom of expression. “Just as in France some say ‘do not buy Turkish brands’, I am addressing my nation from here: above all, do not pay attention to French brands, do not buy them”, declared the Turkish president in a speech in Ankara. Recep Tayyip Erdogan also considers that “Muslims in Europe are treated like Jews before World War II”, accusing some European leaders of “fascism” and “Nazism”.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan thus called on European officials to put an end to what he described as a “campaign of hatred” against Muslims “led” by his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron. “European officials must say ‘stop’ to the hate campaign which is led by Macron”, launched the Turkish president in a virulent speech in Ankara which risks to stir a little more tensions between Turkey and France.
A wave of support in Europe
On two occasions, this weekend, the Turkish president had questioned the “mental health” of French President Emmanuel Macron, denouncing his positions vis-à-vis Muslims. The French president’s speech during a national tribute to the professor beheaded in an Islamist attack on October 16 for showing caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad in class, had particularly aroused his anger. Emmanuel Macron had promised that France would continue to defend the cartoons. However, the French president has recorded a series of support in Europe, starting with Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte.
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“President Erdogan’s remarks against President Emmanuel Macron are unacceptable. The Netherlands resolutely upholds the common values of the EU alongside France. For freedom of expression and against extremism and radicalism, ”he tweeted. On Sunday, the head of European diplomacy Josep Borrell and Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis also expressed their support for the French president.
Angela Merkel, for her part, condemned Erdogan’s “defamatory” remarks. “These are defamatory statements which are absolutely unacceptable”, particularly in the context of the “appalling murder of French professor Samuel Paty by an Islamic fanatic”, said Steffen Seibert, the spokesman for the German Chancellor.
As of Saturday evening, French products were withdrawn from supermarket shelves in Doha, Qatar. In Jordan, videos on social networks showed supermarket shelves emptied of their French products or replaced by those from other countries. The videos were accompanied by the hashtags #France Boycott or “#Our Prophet is a red line” (the prophet is our red line). The head of the Amman chamber of commerce, Khalil Haj Tawfeeq, wrote to the French ambassador to Jordan asking Emmanuel Macron to immediately apologize.
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Calls for demonstrations were launched for Monday in the Gaza Strip and Tuesday in Amman. This weekend, several gatherings took place in Tunisia or in certain regions of Syria, even if they only brought together a few dozen people. “There is no question of giving in to blackmail,” denounced Geoffroy Roux de Bézieux, the head of Medef, the main employers’ union in France, calling on French companies to put their “principles” before business. Agri-food, luxury goods and cosmetics companies could be particularly affected by this boycott in the countries of the Maghreb and the Near and Middle East.
Several dozen small French websites have also been affected by a wave of computer hacks consisting in making them post Islamist propaganda messages, Agence France-Presse noted on Monday. Messages such as “Victory for Mohammed, victory for Islam and death to France” and a montage representing Emmanuel Macron dressed as a pig were displayed instead of the home page of retiree associations, shops or small town halls. On Monday, French Minister of Culture Roselyne Bachelot called for “appeasement”, explaining that France was not fighting “against French Muslims” but against “Islamism and terrorism”.
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The day before, the French Foreign Ministry declared that “the calls for a boycott are without any object and must cease immediately, as well as all the attacks directed against our country, instrumentalized by a radical minority”. Emmanuel Macron tweeted shortly after: “Freedom, we cherish it; equality, we guarantee it; fraternity, we live it with intensity. Nothing will make us back down, ever. Besides Mr. Erdogan, several politicians in the Muslim world have also criticized Emmanuel Macron. In Pakistan, Prime Minister Imran Khan accused him of “attacking Islam”.
The Moroccan foreign ministry said the kingdom “strongly condemned the continuation of the publication of cartoons outrageous to Islam and to the prophet”. The Taliban also condemned the “statements of the French president” in a statement, calling them “ignorant and Islamophobic”.