Turkey blasts French group's demands over Quran texts

  • 8 May 2018

A manifesto by nearly 300 French personalities that urged prominent Muslims to obsolete anti-Jewish and anti-Christian references in the Quran has caused a furore in Turkey as well as in France.

President of Turkey and the leader of the Justice and Development (AK) Party Recep Tayyip Erdogan makes a speech at the Grand National Assembly of Turkey (TBMM) in Ankara, Turkey on May 8, 2018. ( Murat Kula / AA )

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan blasted a group of nearly 300 well-known French personalities who urged prominent Muslims to obsolete anti-Jewish and anti-Christian references in the Quran.

Addressing his governing Justice and Development (AK) Party’s parliamentary group meeting on Tuesday, Erdogan described the group that includes actor Gerard Depardieu, singer Charles Aznavour and the former president, Nicolas Sarkozy, as “despicable” and accused them of attacking scriptures sacred to Muslims.

The group signed a manifesto, which was published in the Le Parisien daily newspaper on April 21, urges prominent Muslims to denounce anti-Jewish and anti-Christian references in the Quran as outdated so “no believer can refer to a holy text to commit a crime.” It also calls for combating anti-Semitism “before it’s too late.”

Erdogan said that Muslims would not stoop to the level of French critics of Islam by attacking their sacred values.

He said those who signed the manifesto and made the proposal "obviously know nothing about the Quran."

"I wonder if they ever read their own holy book the Bible, or the Torah, or the Zabur. If they read them, I guess they would want them to be banned. But they don’t have such problems," Erdogan said.

Warning of Islamophobia

Erdogan also pointed to Islamophobia in the West, saying Ankara had warned its partners of "Islamophobia, anti-Turkish feeling, xenophobia, racism."

"Even if you attack our holy book, we will not do the same [...] We will not stoop to your level and attack your sacred values," he added.

"You are no different than the Daesh terrorist group," Erdogan said at an opening ceremony at the Bestepe Culture and Convention Center later on Tuesday.

Following Erdogan's comments, Turkey's main opposition party's leader also blasted the French proposal regarding the Quran.

The Republican's People Party (CHP) leader addressed the issue, saying these kind of remarks were the same as terrorist groups' ideas.

“I want to make it clear: the Quran is not outdated, but you are! Your attitude is outdated. This idea is the same as Al Qaeda, Al Nusra and Daesh’s idea,” Kemal Kilicdaroglu said.

The manifesto highlighted rising anti-semitism in France as the basis a reason for the call.

The Geneva International Centre for Justice said shortly after the publication of the manifesto that it was deeply concerned, saying that it believed manifesto to be unnecessarily incendiary, focusing the blame on solely the Muslim population.

Controversy in France

The publication of the manifesto also sparked controversy in France.

After a series of high-profile attacks on Jews, Muslim leaders contacted by AFP acknowledged that anti-Semitism was a problem in France.

But they charged that the nearly 300 signatories, who included ex-president Nicolas Sarkozy and former prime minister Manuel Valls, were blaming a whole religion for the actions of an extremist minority.

"The only thing we can agree on is that we must all unite against anti-Semitism," said Ahmet Ogras, head of the French Council of the Muslim Faith umbrella group.

Dalil Boubakeur, the rector of the Grand Mosque of Paris, said the manifesto "subjected French Muslims and French Islam to an unbelievable and unfair trial."

"It creates a clear risk of pitching religious communities against one another," he said in a statement.

Tareq Oubrou, imam of the Grand Mosque of the southern city of the Bordeaux, pointed out that Islam was not the only religion whose ancient holy texts contain anachronistic passages.

"Any number of holy texts are violent, even the Gospel," Oubrou said, adding that the signatories, who also included celebrities like actor Gerard Depardieu, had misinterpreted the Quran.

The writer Pascal Bruckner, among those who signed the letter, told France Inter radio it had not been intended "to stigmatise but to spur on the goodwill of reformist Muslims."

The letter said that since 2006, "11 Jews have been assassinated – and some tortured – by radical Islamists because they were Jewish."

Officially, the number of anti-Semitic crimes fell in France in 2017 for a third year running, and according to the interior ministry, down seven percent. 

But Jews are the target of about a third of France's recorded hate crimes despite making up only about 0.7 percent of the population.