Turkey has called on all countries, including France, to take steps against attacks on Islam. France’s anti-Muslim policies have resulted in recent calls for boycotting French products and massive protests across the Muslim world.
Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has dismissed French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo’s efforts to ridicule him, saying he has nothing to say about “scoundrels who insult his beloved prophet”, as Turkish authorities vow to take legal and diplomatic steps in response.
A strongly worded statement from the Turkish Communication Directorate on Wednesday called on "all countries, especially France, to take the necessary steps against provocative anti-Muslim attacks in recent weeks".
Shortly after, the Ankara prosecutor’s office launched an investigation into the publication.
Turkish anger at the recent caricature added fuel to a long-simmering row over France's anti-Muslim policies, including offensive cartoons of Prophet Muhammad by Hebdo in 2015. Depicting prophets is strictly avoided in Islam and Muslims around the world took the caricatures to be an offence intentionally directed at mocking the community at large.
Erdogan on Wednesday blasted the "scoundrels" at Hebdo for mocking him in a front-page cartoon.
"I don't need to say anything to those scoundrels who insult my beloved prophet on such a scale," Erdogan said in a speech to his Justice and Development (AK) Party's lawmakers in the parliament.
Erdogan said he had not personally seen the Hebdo drawing because he did not want to "give credit to such immoral publications", calling it "disgusting" nonetheless.
Tensions between France and Muslims further flared after a French teacher was beheaded earlier this month for showing his pupils caricatures of Prophet Muhammad in a lesson on freedom of speech.
Turkey's response to Erdogan caricature
The publication has stirred outrage in Turkish political circles and added to a sense of crisis enveloping bilateral relations.
"We assure our people that necessary legal and diplomatic actions will be taken against this cartoon," the Turkish communications directorate statement said.
The statement accused a bloc in Europe – led by the French President Emmanuel Macron and the Dutch politician Geert Wilders – of "attacking and humiliating Muslims, Turkey, Turkish nation and all our values under the cover of freedom of speech, democracy and pluralism which manipulates whole Muslim world incomprehensibly."
It said that French "police raids on mosques, organised attacks on Islam's values, the libellous stance of senior politicians and organisations towards Muslims have insulted and angered Muslims everywhere."
The statement added that the recently published Erdogan caricature only served to highlight the sole objective of the above-described group: increasing tensions.
The cartoon mocking the Turkish president "cannot represent anything other than a swap of Islamophobia in which Europe sinks more and more every day."
Turkey's Justice Minister Abdulhamit Gul told reporters in Ankara that Turkish authorities had taken all necessary initiatives with the relevant authorities.
Top Turkish officials earlier condemned the caricature.
“We strongly condemn the publication concerning our president of the French magazine, which has no respect to faith, the sacred and values,” Erdogan’s aide Ibrahim Kalin wrote on Twitter.
“The aim of these publications, that are devoid of morality and decency, is to sow seeds of hatred and animosity. To turn freedom of expression into hostility towards religion and belief can only be the product of a sick mentality,” Kalin said.
Also on Twitter, Turkey's Communications Director Fahrettin Altun said the latest episode showed "Macron’s anti-Muslim agenda is bearing fruit!"
"We condemn this most disgusting effort by this publication to spread its cultural racism and hatred," Altun wrote on Twitter.
After the beheading, France doubled down over the cartoons, saying it was a matter of free speech. Macron accused Islam being in crisis and promised to clamp down on what he calls "Islamic separatism".
Macron has said he would redouble efforts to stop conservative Islamic beliefs
Erdogan sharply criticised Macron over the weekend, saying the French leader needed a "mental health check", prompting France to recall its ambassador from Ankara.
On Monday, Erdogan urged a boycott of French products.