Erdogan vows legal response to Charlie Hebdo cartoon showing him lifting skirt of veiled woman

David Chazan
·3-min read
People protest against the French president in Ankara  - Altan Gocher/Barcroft Media via Getty Images
People protest against the French president in Ankara - Altan Gocher/Barcroft Media via Getty Images

Anger at France deepened in Muslim-majority countries on Wednesday over a Charlie Hebdo cartoon showing Turkey’s president drinking beer while lifting the skirt of a woman wearing a hijab to reveal her naked buttocks.

Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the president, described the cartoonists as “scoundrels” and accused the West of wanting to “relaunch the Crusades”.

His office also vowed to take unspecified "legal and diplomatic actions" through the Turkish legal system.

His row with France erupted after President Emmanuel Macron ordered a crackdown on Islamists this month, following the beheading of a teacher who showed his class Charlie Hebdo cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed.

Protesters in Somalia’s capital Mogadishu shouted: “Down with France. It insulted our prophet.”

A woman holds a sign saying: "Charlie Hebdo. All for this" during the rally in memory of Samuel Paty in Lille - Sylvain Lefevre/Getty Images
A woman holds a sign saying: "Charlie Hebdo. All for this" during the rally in memory of Samuel Paty in Lille - Sylvain Lefevre/Getty Images

Mr Erdogan claimed he had not seen the cartoon in the French satirical weekly depicting him "because I consider it wrong to even look at these immoral publications”. He said he was angry over disrespect of the Prophet Mohammed rather than the "disgusting attack directed at me”.

He added that the West was "once again headed to a period of barbarity", describing former colonial powers as "murderers" for their record in Africa and Asia.

“They literally want to relaunch the Crusades. Since the Crusades, the seeds of evil and hatred have started falling on these (Muslim) lands and that's when peace was disrupted.”

The Turkish president said at the weekend that his French counterpart needed a “mental health check-up”. He called for a boycott of French goods.

France has recalled its ambassador from Turkey and advised its nationals to exercise caution and stay away from protests in a number of Muslim-majority countries.

Dozens of Iranians gathered outside the French embassy in Tehran. Some held placards with crosses over images of French products.

Hundreds of Bangladeshis protested in the capital Dhaka for a third consecutive day. Some burned effigies of Mr Macron, chanting that he was an enemy of Islam.

Egypt’s top Muslim cleric, Sheikh Ahmed al-Tayeb, speaking on the eve of the Prophet Muhammad’s birthday, celebrated from dusk on Wednesday to dusk on Thursday, said offending Islam and Muslims had become a tool to win votes.

Muslims consider cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad, or any depiction of him, as blasphemous.

Imran Khan, Pakistan’s prime minister, who has accused Mr Macron of “attacking Islam”, said that if France and other western countries could restrict free speech by banning Holocaust denial, they should also outlaw blasphemy that offends Muslims.

Iran’s president, Hassan Rouhani, said insulting the Prophet would encourage “violence and bloodshed”.

Gabriel Attal, the French government spokesman, said France would not back down in the face of “attempts at destabilisation and intimidation.”

He added: “France will never renounce its principles and values, notably the freedom of expression and freedom of publication.”

Speaking at a ceremony last week in honour of Samuel Paty, the teacher murdered by an 18-year-old Chechen refugee on October 16, Mr Macron vowed that France would not give up cartoons.

Since his killing, Mr Macron has ordered curbs on foreign imams, including those sent by the Turkish authorities to minister to the country’s sizeable ethnic Turkish population, as part of a drive to ensure that the practice of Islam in France is compatible with its laws and culture.