France has recalled its ambassador to Turkey for consultations after President Recep Tayyip Erdogan insulted French President Emmanuel Macron.
Erdogan said that the French president needed a mental health check for pledging to defend secular values and fight radical Islam.
France and Turkey are already at loggerheads over a range of issues, including maritime rights in the eastern Mediterranean, Libya, Syria and the escalating conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan over Nagorno-Karabakh.
Macron has spoken out on these issues after a French teacher was murdered for showing cartoons of Prophet Muhammad in class. Macron reportedly said that France “will not give up our cartoons”, earlier this week.
Depictions of the Prophet Muhammad can cause serious offence to Muslims. Islamic tradition explicitly forbids images of Muhammad and Allah (God).
Central to France’s national identity is state secularism, and therefore the curbing of freedom of expression to protect the feelings of a particular community undermines the country’s unity.
In a speech, the Turkish president asked “What’s the problem of the individual called Macron with Islam and with the Muslims?” before adding that Macron needs “treatment on a mental level”.
“What else can be said to a head of state who does not understand freedom of belief and who behaves in this way to millions of people living in his country who are members of a different faith?”
The beheading of the teacher has deepened divisions in France French Muslims fear state aims to control their faith.
A French presidential official was quoted saying that Erdogan’s comments are unacceptable, as France demanded that Erdogan changes the course of his policy.
Erdogan is known for having moved Islam to Turkey’s mainstream politics. His AK Party which came to power in 2002, is deeply rooted in Islam.