Cartoon of President Erdogan in Charlie Hebdo sparks fury in Turkey


The Islamic world’s anger at France deepened today as Turkey condemned a Charlie Hebdo cartoon showing its president Recep Tayyip Erdogan lifting a woman’s burka to look at her naked backside. 

Erdogan called the cartoonists ‘scoundrels’ and accused the West of wanting to ‘relaunch the Crusades’ by attacking Islam after the image appeared on the front of this week’s magazine.  

‘I don’t need to say anything to those scoundrels who insult my beloved prophet on such a scale,’ Erdogan said, calling it a ‘disgusting attack’. 

Showing Erdogan in a T-shirt and underpants, the caricature has Erdogan saying ‘Ooh, the Prophet’ as he looks at the woman’s backside, and comes with the caption: ‘Erdogan – in private he’s very funny’.

A Charlie Hebdo cartoon showing the naked Prophet’s backside was the image which French school teacher Samuel Paty showed to his class in the lesson which led to his murder and beheading earlier this month. 

French president Emmanuel Macron has staunchly defended free expression and the right to mock religion in the wake of the terror attack, but has become a target of anger in the Islamic world. 

Turkey has vowed to take ‘legal, diplomatic actions’ in response to the cartoon while Iran’s president Hassan Rouhani also took aim at France today by warning that insulting the Prophet would encourage ‘violence and bloodshed’.  

A Charlie Hebdo cartoon mocking Turkey’s president Recep Tayyip Erdogan (pictured) has added to tensions between Ankara and Paris after the beheading of a French school teacher

Protesters in Ankara hold a demonstration against Macron after the French leader vowed that the country would continue to allow the cartoons which offend Muslims

Protesters in Ankara hold a demonstration against Macron after the French leader vowed that the country would continue to allow the cartoons which offend Muslims 

Protesters took to the streets in India today, where people are seen calling for a boycott in Mumbai and accusing Macron of attacking Islam to distract from the coronavirus crisis

Protesters took to the streets in India today, where people are seen calling for a boycott in Mumbai and accusing Macron of attacking Islam to distract from the coronavirus crisis 

An anti-Macron banned hangs in front of a shop in an Arab neighbourhood of Jerusalem today

An anti-Macron banned hangs in front of a shop in an Arab neighbourhood of Jerusalem today

Jihadist says he carried out Mali attack in revenge for Charlie Hebdo cartoons  

A Mauritanian jihadist told a trial in Mali today that he had attacked a club in the capital Bamako in 2015, killing five people, in revenge for cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed by Charlie Hebdo.

A Frenchman, a Belgian and three Malians were killed in the 2015 club attack in Bamako, when gunmen sprayed the Terrasse bar and restaurant with bullets. 

‘We are the ones who carried it out, Al-Mourabitoune,’ said Fawaz Ould Ahmed, also known as ‘Ibrahim 10,’ referring to a jihadist group.

‘We are not ashamed, we are proud. It was revenge for the prophet after what they did at Charlie Hebdo – it’s the photos, the caricatures.’

He added: ‘And sadly, it’s not over. It’s still continuing,’ in an apparent reference to Macron’s defence of free expression 

France is the former colonial power in Mali and has more than 5,000 troops in Mali and neighbouring countries to fight African jihadists. 

But the militants, many with links to al Qaeda and Islamic State, have grown stronger in recent years. 

Rouhani said that ‘the West should understand that… insulting the Prophet is insulting all Muslims, all prophets, all human values, and trampling ethics’. 

‘Insulting the prophet is no achievement. It’s immoral. It’s encouraging violence,’ Rouhani said in a televised speech during the weekly cabinet meeting. 

‘It’s a surprise that this would come from those claiming culture and democracy, that they would somehow, even if unintentionally, encourage violence and bloodshed,’ he added. 

Rouhani also called on the West to ‘stop interfering in Muslims’ internal affairs’ if it ‘truly seeks to achieve peace, equality, calm and security in today’s societies’.

In Cairo, Egypt’s President Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi said freedom of expression should stop if it offended more than 1.5billion people, referring to the number of Muslims. 

And the Grand Imam of Egypt’s al-Azhar university, one of the world’s most eminent seats of Sunni Muslim learning, urged the international community to criminalise ‘anti-Muslim’ actions.

Pakistan’s prime minister Imran Khan sent a letter to the leaders of fellow Muslim countries calling on them to ‘counter the growing Islamophobia in non-Muslim states’, especially Western ones.  

Khan warned of a ‘dangerous cycle’ in which ‘hurtful actions result in reactions from Muslims as they see their faith and their beloved Prophet targeted which results in further discriminatory actions by governments’. 

He also argued that European governments have been willing to limit free speech by banning Holocaust denial, suggesting that the commitment to free expression is not absolute. 

‘There has to be an understanding by the Western world of giving a similar respect to Muslims,’ Khan said. 

‘The time has come for leaders of the Muslim world to take this message with clarity and unity to the rest of the world, especially the Western world so an end is put to Islamophobia and attacks on Islam and our Prophet PBUH [peace be upon him].’  

European leaders have come to Macron’s defence in his row with Erdogan, with Britain’s foreign secretary Dominic Raab today calling on NATO allies to stand together in defence of tolerance and free speech. 

‘The UK stands in solidarity with France and the French people in the wake of the appalling murder of Samuel Paty,’ Raab said in a veiled rebuke to Turkey.  

Erdogan has accused the French leader of an ‘anti-Islam agenda’ and tangled with him on other issues including Syria and the Mediterranean. 

The Ankara prosecutor’s office said it was launching an investigation into the publication of the cartoon.  

‘French president Macron’s anti-Muslim agenda is bearing fruit,’ Erdogan’s top press aide Fahrettin Altun said today. 

Altun said the image was a ‘most disgusting effort by this publication to spread its cultural racism and hatred’. 

‘Charlie Hebdo just published a series of so-called cartoons full of despicable images purportedly of our President,’ he said. 

Turkey’s vice president Fuat Oktay also condemned the ‘immoral publication’ by what he called an ‘incorrigible French rag’.   

‘I call on the moral and conscientious international community to speak out against this disgrace,’ the vice president said. 

Macron has vowed that France will stick to its secular traditions and laws guaranteeing freedom of speech which allow publications such as Charlie Hebdo to produce inflammatory cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed. 

The French government has also shut down a Paris mosque and raided other Islamic associations in the wake of Paty’s killing in the Paris suburbs earlier this month.  

Paty showed his students some of the cartoons in a lesson on free speech, leading to an online campaign against him which ended in his grisly murder.    

An attack on Charlie Hebdo by jihadists in 2015 left 12 people dead, including some of its most famed cartoonists.

Pakistan's prime minister Imran Khan sent this letter to the leaders of fellow Muslim countries, calling on the West to 'put an end to Islamophobia and attacks on Islam and our Prophet'

Pakistan’s prime minister Imran Khan sent this letter to the leaders of fellow Muslim countries, calling on the West to ‘put an end to Islamophobia and attacks on Islam and our Prophet’ 

Tens of thousands of activists took to the streets of Dhaka, Bangladesh, on Tuesday in anger at Macron's stance over the cartoons, and had to be blocked by police from reaching the French embassy

Tens of thousands of activists took to the streets of Dhaka, Bangladesh, on Tuesday in anger at Macron’s stance over the cartoons, and had to be blocked by police from reaching the French embassy

Vatan-e Emrooz front page cartoon of Macron

A photograph of Macron is burned at a protest on the West Bank

Emmanuel Macron has found himself demonised in Islamic countries as protests against his defence of Mohammed cartoons spreads. Hard-line Iranian newspaper Vatan-e Emrooz depicted him as a literal devil (left) while protesters burned images of him on the West Bank (right)

A Palestinian artist paints an anti-Macron mural in Gaza City today as anger grows in the Islamic world against the French president's staunch defence of the offensive cartoons

A Palestinian artist paints an anti-Macron mural in Gaza City today as anger grows in the Islamic world against the French president’s staunch defence of the offensive cartoons 

A protester in Iraq carries a portrait of Macron and his wife, denouncing the French President for disrespecting the Prophet

A protester in Iraq carries a portrait of Macron and his wife, denouncing the French President for disrespecting the Prophet

An effigy of Macron with shoes tied around his neck - intended as a disrespectful gesture - is carried through the streets of Dhaka by protesters on Tuesday

An effigy of Macron with shoes tied around his neck – intended as a disrespectful gesture – is carried through the streets of Dhaka by protesters on Tuesday

Macron’s defence of Charlie Hebdo, and his recent comment that Islam worldwide is ‘in crisis’, have prompted Erdogan to urge Turks to boycott French products. 

Macron’s stance has also sparked anti-France protests in Turkey and in other Muslim countries including Bangladesh. 

Tehran summoned a senior French envoy, the charge d’affaires, and the Saudi foreign ministry posted on Twitter to denounce ‘the offensive cartoons of the Prophet’.

Malaysia’s opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim slammed Macron’s comments on Islam being in crisis as ‘offensive’ and ‘unreasonable’, adding in a statement: ‘With freedom comes responsibility.’ 

Macron has also drawn fire in Pakistan and Morocco, while the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas, the Taliban in Afghanistan and the Lebanese Shiite movement Hezbollah have also spoken out against France.

The Paris Saint-Germain football team is due to play in Istanbul later today in a Champions League game against Basaksehir, a club with links to Erdogan’s regime.

PSG manager Thomas Tuchel said he would talk to his players about the political tensions before the game, which will be played in an empty ground because of Covid-19. 

Previously, European leaders including German chancellor Angela Merkel had defended Macron after Erdogan suggested he needed ‘mental checks’. 

‘They are defamatory comments that are completely unacceptable, particularly against the backdrop of the horrific murder of the French teacher Samuel Paty by an Islamist fanatic,’ Merkel’s spokesman Steffen Seibert said.

A shopper walks past French products that have been hidden behind a plastic cover at a shelf in a supermarket in the Jordanian capital Amman

A shopper walks past French products that have been hidden behind a plastic cover at a shelf in a supermarket in the Jordanian capital Amman

People burn an effigy of Macron over his comments on the Prophet Muhammad caricatures, in Karachi, Pakistan

People burn an effigy of Macron over his comments on the Prophet Muhammad caricatures, in Karachi, Pakistan

Demonstrators shout slogans beside a burning effigy of Macron during a protest in Pakistan

Demonstrators shout slogans beside a burning effigy of Macron during a protest in Pakistan

Teacher Samuel Paty (pictured) was beheaded in Paris on Friday after he shared cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed in class. His killer shared a video of the victim's severed head online

The terrorist's body lying in the middle of the road after he was killed by French police following his refusal to surrender

Teacher Samuel Paty (left) was beheaded in the Paris suburbs after he shared cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed in class. The terrorist was killed by police (right)

On Tuesday, Dutch PM Mark Rutte came to the defence of his country’s far-right politician Geert Wilders after Erdogan brought legal action against him.

Wilders had shared a cartoon of the Turkish president wearing an Ottoman hat shaped like a bomb with a lit fuse on Twitter.

‘I have a message for President Erdogan and that message is simple: In the Netherlands, freedom of expression is one of our highest values,’ Rutte said.

Erdogan has a track record of using legal action against critics in Europe.

He brought a case in 2016 against German TV comic Jan Boehmermann, who read out a deliberately defamatory poem about the Turkish leader during his show as part of a skit designed to illustrate the boundaries of free speech.

The row put Merkel in the awkward position of signing off on criminal proceedings against the comic under an archaic law that was later struck from the German legal code.

Tensions between France and Turkey have mounted in recent months over Turkish actions in Syria, Libya and the Caucasus region of Nagorno-Karabakh. 

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