Muslims in France have been told they are “not persecuted,” after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan blasted French President Emmanuel Macron over his “problem with Islam.”
The French Council of the Muslim Faith (CFCM) sought to remind Muslims of their freedom in France, as it urged them to “defend the interest” of the country, amid a boycott campaign by Turkey.
It follows Erdogan’s call on Monday for Turks “never” to buy French products, in response to Macron’s toughened stance on radical Islam in the wake of a French teacher’s murder.
The French president had warned that the country would not “not give up the cartoons” and said “radical Islamists” were “stealing our future” as he mourned the death of teacher Samuel Paty who was beheaded outside Paris on October 16 by 18-year-old Abdullakh Anzorov.
The 47-year-old history teacher is understood to have shown his students caricatures of the Prophet Mohammed, which many Muslims find offensive.
In a statement on Monday CFCM President Mohammed Moussaoui said: “France is a great country, Muslim citizens are not persecuted, they freely build their mosques and freely practice their religion.
We know that the promoters of these campaigns say they defend Islam but we call on them to be wise (…) All the campaigns to denigrate France are counterproductive and create division.”
Relations between NATO allies France and Turkey reached a particular low point over the weekend as Paris recalled its ambassador from Ankara on Saturday after Erdogan said Macron “needs mental health treatment” for his stance on Islam.
Other Muslim powers have joined a boycott on French products, including Kuwait and Qatar, while Iran’s Foreign Minister Javad Zarif hit out at the “opportunistic” use of free speech to target Muslims.
“Muslims are the primary victims of the ‘cult of hatred’ – empowered by colonial regimes & exported by their own clients,” he said on Monday.
In Europe, Erdogan’s comments on Macron’s health were condemned by German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas as “unacceptable” and a “new low.”
Macron is due to meet with representatives of the CFCM at the Elysee Palace on Monday and recently discussed a bill on “separatism” with other religious figures.
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