Erdogan backs boycott of French goods over cartoon row

Pakistan's parliament passed a resolution urging the government to recall its envoy from Paris


Reuters October 27, 2020
Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan makes a speech during a meeting in Ankara, Turkey October 26, 2020. Presidential Press Office/Handout via REUTERS

ANKARA:

Turkish leader Tayyip Erdogan asked his compatriots to stop buying French goods on Monday in the latest expression of anger in the Muslim world over blasphemous images being displayed in France.

In Bangladesh on Monday, protesters held placards with a caricature of French President Emmanuel Macron and the words: “Macron is the enemy of peace”, while Pakistan’s parliament passed a resolution urging the government to recall its envoy from Paris.

Erdogan said France was pursuing an anti-Islam agenda.

“I am calling to all my citizens from here to never help French brands or buy them,” Erdogan said.

The Turkish president has made similar boycott calls in the past, including an appeal not to buy US electronic goods in 2018 that was not followed through.

Erdogan on Monday joined a chorus of voices calling for a boycott. In Kuwait City, a supermarket had stripped its shelves of L’Oreal cosmetics and skincare products after the cooperative union to which it belongs decided to stop stocking French goods.

In Saudi Arabia, calls for a boycott of French supermarket chain Carrefour were trending on social media, though two stores Reuters visited in the Saudi capital on Monday seemed as busy as normal. A company representative in France said it had yet to feel any impact.

France is a major exporter of grain to mainly-Muslim North Africa, and French companies in the autos and retail sector also have significant exposure to majority-Muslim countries

French Trade Minister Franck Riester said it was too early to put a figure on the impact of the boycott campaign but so far it was limited and mainly affected French agricultural exports.

Teacher beheaded

The row has its roots in a knife attack outside a French school on Oct. 16 in which an 18-year-old man of Chechen origin beheaded Samuel Paty, a 47-year-old teacher who had shown pupils cartoons of Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) in a civics lesson on freedom of speech.

The cartoons first appeared many years ago in the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, whose Paris office was attacked in 2015 by gunmen who killed 12 people.

Since the beheading, the caricatures have been projected onto a building in one city and people displayed them at protests around the country. Macron said he would redouble efforts to stop conservative Islamic beliefs subverting French values.

Saudi Arabia’s highest religious authority, the Council of Senior Scholars, said on Sunday that insulting prophets had nothing to do with freedom of expression and only “served extremists who aim to spread hatred”.

Qatar’s government issued a statement on Monday condemning what it described as populist rhetoric inciting the abuse of religions.

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif tweeted that insulting Muslims is an “opportunistic abuse of freedom of speech. It only fuels extremism.”

Earlier, Erdogan had questioned Macron’s mental health, prompting Paris to recall its ambassador in Ankara.

“What is the problem of this person called Macron with Muslims and Islam? Macron needs treatment on a mental level,” Erdogan said in a speech on Saturday.

 

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