Leaders from around Europe condemned Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s inflammatory statements against French President Emmanuel Macron.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte, and Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis condemned Erdogan’s assertion that Macron need psychiatric treatment because of his recent crackdown on French mosques and Islamic organizations that had ties to extremism.
In a tweet on Sunday, PM Mitsotakis expressed his support for the French President, writing “Personal insults against President Macron and hate speech targeting France by the Turkish leadership is unacceptable, fuels religious hatred and undermines peaceful coexistence.”
Personal insults against President Macron and hate speech targeting France by the Turkish leadership is unacceptable, fuels religious hatred and undermines peaceful coexistence. Full support and solidarity to @EmmanuelMacron and the French people, still mourning a heinous crime.
— Prime Minister GR (@PrimeministerGR) October 25, 2020
Erdogan suggested that Macron’s fight against radical Islamic terrorism, after French school teacher Samuel Paty was beheaded for showing cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammad, was inspired by a hatred of Muslims, who make up around 10% of France’s population.
German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas found that suggestion particularly egregious, stating during a press conference on Monday that “Anyone who simply equates these real problems with racism and Islamophobia, is acting irresponsibly and is playing into the hands of those who want to divide our society.”
Maas called Erdogan’s statements “a new low” and expressed his country’s full support of France “in the mission against Islamist extremism.”
In response to Erdogan’s statement, Macron withdrew France’s ambassador to Ankara. Erdogan’s inflammatory comments have been labelled dangerous, as they have already produced protests against Macron around the world.
Macron has reiterated France’s commitment to freedom of expression and secularism in the country after the brutal murder of Paty.
Erdogan has increasingly pushed religious-based policy in a country that was founded on secularism, energizing his nationalist base.
His decision to turn Hagia Sofia, one of the holiest sites in Orthodox Christianity, from a museum into a mosque, was widely seen as part of his nationalist, religious-based agenda.