Paris The conflict between Turkey and France is reaching a new dimension. In Turkey and several Arab countries, calls are being made to boycott French products after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan repeatedly accused his French colleague Emmanuel Macron of having “a problem with Muslims” and that he should have his health checked. France has called its ambassador back for the first time.
The federal government condemned Erdogan’s attacks on Monday as “completely unacceptable defamations”. Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said the fight against radical Islamism had nothing to do with Islamophobia.
The dispute began with a dispute over the deployment of Turkish soldiers in Libya, the violation of Greek territorial waters by Turkish natural gas exploration ships and Turkey’s role in the Armenian-Azerbaijani war.
Now the Turkish President is taking the dispute to another level: He has been accusing French President Emmanuel Macron for days of persecuting and humiliating Muslims. Media close to the government speak of a “witch hunt against Muslims in France”. The country insulted Islam by publishing the Muhammad cartoons.
Macron had repeatedly stressed that he did not have to judge religions, but that in France blasphemy was also allowed as part of freedom of expression. Erdogan and the media devoted to him are now making a state-decreed mockery of Islam.
Jostling against Macron could turn into violence
Exactly such accusations preceded the murder of French teacher Samuel Paty on October 16 by a Russian of Chechen descent. In a systematic campaign, the teacher was accused of being Islamophobic and of distributing pornography.
By approaching these allegations, Erdogan is crossing a line: the public jostling against Macron could turn into violence.
Macron reacted to the murder of the teacher by banning various Islamist associations and closing some mosques. In addition, an upcoming law is to restrict the posting of imams from abroad to France.
This would particularly affect Turkey, which is particularly active in sending Muslim clergymen to Western Europe. It would lose some of its influence over the Muslims. This also probably explains the violence of the attacks Erdogan is now waging against Macron.
Supermarkets list French products
There are now countless calls for a boycott of French goods on Twitter. The authors describe themselves as Turks, Jordanians, Qataris or Kuwait. The tweets are often similar, however, often with the hashtag #MacronTheDevil and have an identical list with the logos of over 40 French brands, from cheese and ballpoint pens to luxury products. Some French politicians suspect Turkey is behind the boycott campaign.
French media report on supermarket chains in several Gulf states that have started to delist French products. The photos show how cheese, jam and shampoo are taken from the shelves.
The boycott calls do not shock anyone in Paris, but the government is very concerned about Erdogan’s policy. In view of the weakening of Iran, Erdogan wants to become the leader of the – in his case Sunni – Muslims, is the interpretation. On Sunday, the Turkish President also attacked the Federal Republic of Germany because a mosque was searched on suspicion of embezzlement.
Paris sees Erdogan as economically and politically weakened. His attacks on France and Germany and his aggressive actions in the eastern Mediterranean should distract from the fact that the country is economically in decline thanks to Erdogan’s policies.
France, Germany and the EU would have to vigorously oppose Erdogan’s systematic attempt to intimidate the EU and gain influence over Muslims within the member states.
More: Erdogan’s aggressive foreign policy is putting the country’s future at risk.