Turkish leader backs boycott of French goods over cartoon row

Turkish leader Tayyip Erdogan asked his compatriots to stop buying French goods on Monday in the latest expression of anger in the Muslim world over images being displayed in France of the Prophet Mohammad, which some Muslims consider blasphemous.

In Bangladesh on Monday, protesters held placards with a caricature of French President Emmanuel Macron and the words: "Macron is the enemy of peace", while Pakistan's parliament passed a resolution urging the government to recall its envoy from Paris.

Erdogan, who has a history of fraught relations with Macron, said France was pursuing an anti-Islam agenda.

"I am calling to all my citizens from here to never help French brands or buy them," Erdogan said.

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Demonstrators burn a poster with a picture of French President Emmanuel Macron with a footprint over his face during a protest following Macron's comments of Macron over Prophet Mohammed caricatures, in Quetta on October 26, 2020. - Pakistan on October 26 summoned French envoy to register protest over President Emmanuel Macron comments and for re-publishing of caricatures of Prophet Mohammed in a paris based magazine. (Photo by Banaras KHAN / AFP) (Photo by BANARAS KHAN/AFP via Getty Images)
ISTANBUL, TURKEY - OCTOBER 25: A boy holds a poster showing the portrait of French President Emmanuel Macron during a protest against French president Emmanuel Macron on October 25, 2020 in Istanbul, Turkey. People gathered to protest against the recent statements by French President Emmanuel Macron regarding the beheading of a teacher that displayed cartoons of Prophet Muhammad in his class and the closure of some mosques in France. (Photo by Chris McGrath/Getty Images)
Palestinian demonstrators lift flags and placards during a rally to protest comments of French President Emmanuel Macron over Prophet Mohammed cartoons, in Deir al-Balah in the central Gaza Strip, on October 25, 2020. (Photo by MAHMUD HAMS / AFP) (Photo by MAHMUD HAMS/AFP via Getty Images)
Turkish protesters shout slogans against France during a demonstration against French President's comments over Prophet Muhammad cartoons, in Istanbul, on October 25, 2020. - Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on October 25, 2020 renewed his call for his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron to undergo mental checks, a day after his comments prompted Paris to recall its envoy to Ankara. Macron's comments, on October 21, 2020, came in response to the beheading of a teacher, Samuel Paty, outside his school in a suburb outside Paris earlier this month, after he had shown cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed during a class he was leading on free speech. (Photo by Yasin AKGUL / AFP) (Photo by YASIN AKGUL/AFP via Getty Images)
ISTANBUL, TURKEY - OCTOBER 25: People shout slogans during a protest against French president Emmanuel Macron on October 25, 2020 in Istanbul, Turkey. People gathered to protest against the recent statements by French President Emmanuel Macron regarding the beheading of a teacher that displayed cartoons of Prophet Muhammad in his class and the closure of some mosques in France. (Photo by Chris McGrath/Getty Images)
Arab Israeli Muslim demonstrators (including children), clad in masks due to the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, hold up signs as they gather for a rally protesting against the comments of French President Emmanuel Macron over Prophet Mohammed cartoons, in the Arab town of Umm-Al Fahem in Northen Israel on October 25, 2020. (Photo by Ahmad GHARABLI / AFP) (Photo by AHMAD GHARABLI/AFP via Getty Images)
Men raise their finger as Turkish protesters shout slogans against France during a demonstration against French President's comments over Prophet Muhammad cartoons, in Istanbul, on October 25, 2020. - Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on October 25, 2020 renewed his call for his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron to undergo mental checks, a day after his comments prompted Paris to recall its envoy to Ankara. Macron's comments, on October 21, 2020, came in response to the beheading of a teacher, Samuel Paty, outside his school in a suburb outside Paris earlier this month, after he had shown cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed during a class he was leading on free speech. (Photo by Yasin AKGUL / AFP) (Photo by YASIN AKGUL/AFP via Getty Images)
GAZA, PALESTINE - 2020/10/25: Protesters burning placards with portraits of the French president during the demonstration. Palestinians in the city of Rafah protest against the publishing of cartoons as Prophet Muhammad in a French newspaper and the statement of French President Emmanuel Macron. (Photo by Yousef Masoud/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)
An Arab Israeli Muslim demonstrator, clad in mask due to the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, holds up a sign during a rally protesting against the comments of French President Emmanuel Macron over Prophet Mohammed cartoons, in the Arab town of Umm-Al Fahem in Northen Israel on October 25, 2020. (Photo by Ahmad GHARABLI / AFP) (Photo by AHMAD GHARABLI/AFP via Getty Images)
An Arab Israeli Muslim demonstrator, clad in mask due to the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, holds up a sign during a rally protesting against the comments of French President Emmanuel Macron over Prophet Mohammed cartoons, in the Arab town of Umm-Al Fahem in Northen Israel on October 25, 2020. (Photo by Ahmad GHARABLI / AFP) (Photo by AHMAD GHARABLI/AFP via Getty Images)
An Arab Israeli Muslim demonstrator, holding a child and clad in mask due to the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, holds up a sign during a rally protesting against the comments of French President Emmanuel Macron over Prophet Mohammed cartoons, in the Arab town of Umm-Al Fahem in Northen Israel on October 25, 2020. (Photo by Ahmad GHARABLI / AFP) (Photo by AHMAD GHARABLI/AFP via Getty Images)
Palestinian demonstrators burn pictures of French President Emmanuel Macron during a rally to protest his comments over Prophet Mohammed cartoons, in Deir al-Balah in the central Gaza Strip, on October 25, 2020. (Photo by Majdi Fathi/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
Demonstrators stamp with their feet on a French national flag during a rally protesting against the comments of French President Emmanuel Macron over Prophet Mohammed cartoons, at the Martyrs' Square of Libya's capital Tripoli on October 25, 2020. (Photo by Mahmud TURKIA / AFP) (Photo by MAHMUD TURKIA/AFP via Getty Images)
IDLIB, SYRIA - OCTOBER 25: Citizens, holding banners, gather to stage a demonstration to protest against French President Emmanuel Macronâs statements of Islam and Muslims, on October 25, 2020 in Idlib, Syria. (Photo by Muhammed Abdullah/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)
GAZA, PALESTINE - 2020/10/25: Protester holding a placard with a crossed out image of the French president during the demonstration. Palestinians in the city of Rafah protest against the publishing of cartoons as Prophet Muhammad in a French newspaper and the statement of French President Emmanuel Macron. (Photo by Yousef Masoud/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)
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The Turkish president has made similar boycott calls in the past, including an appeal not to buy US electronic goods in 2018 that was not followed through.

Erdogan on Monday joined a chorus of voices calling for a boycott. In Kuwait city, a supermarket had stripped its shelves of L'Oreal cosmetics and skincare products after the cooperative union to which it belongs decided to stop stocking French goods.

In Saudi Arabia, calls for a boycott of French supermarket chain Carrefour were trending on social media, though two stores Reuters visited in the Saudi capital on Monday seemed as busy as normal. A company representative in France said it had yet to feel any impact.

France is a major exporter of grain to mainly-Muslim North Africa, and French companies in the autos and retail sector also have significant exposure to majority-Muslim countries

French Trade Minister Franck Riester said it was too early to put a figure on the impact of the boycott campaign but so far it was limited and mainly affected French agricultural exports.

TEACHER BEHEADED

The row has its roots in a knife attack outside a French school on Oct. 16 in which an 18-year-old man of Chechen origin beheaded Samuel Paty, a 47-year-old teacher who had shown pupils cartoons of Mohammad in a civics lesson on freedom of speech.

The cartoons first appeared many years ago in the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, whose Paris office was attacked in 2015 by gunmen who killed 12 people.

Since the beheading, the caricatures have been projected onto a building in one city and people displayed them at protests around the country. Macron said he would redouble efforts to stop conservative Islamic beliefs subverting French values.

Some in the Muslim world saw this as an attack on their religion.

Saudi Arabia's highest religious authority, the Council of Senior Scholars, said on Sunday that insulting prophets had nothing to do with freedom of expression and only "served extremists who aim to spread hatred".

Qatar's government issued a statement on Monday condemning what it described as populist rhetoric inciting the abuse of religions.

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif tweeted that insulting Muslims is an "opportunistic abuse of freedom of speech. It only fuels extremism."

Earlier, Erdogan had questioned Macron's mental health, prompting Paris to recall its ambassador in Ankara.

"What is the problem of this person called Macron with Muslims and Islam? Macron needs treatment on a mental level," Erdogan said in a speech on Saturday.

WE WILL NOT GIVE IN'

France's government has stood firm in response to Muslim anger. In a Tweet on Sunday, Macron said France respected all differences in a spirit of peace but added: "We will not give in, ever." His foreign ministry urged foreign governments to dissociate themselves from boycott calls.

Macron on Monday met representatives of France's Muslim community. The meeting was behind closed doors and the Elysee Palace gave no detailed information on what was discussed.

One of those present, Mohamed Moussaoui, President of the French Council for the Muslim Faith, said delegates told Macron they opposed the boycott.

But they also told Macron "the Muslims of France are worried by discussions which seek to confuse them with terrorists," Moussaoui told French broadcaster BFM.

Several of France's partners in the European Union rallied round the French leader.

Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said Erdogan's remarks about Macron were unacceptable.

"Full solidarity with the President @EmmanuelMacron," Conte wrote on Twitter. "Personal invective does not help the positive agenda that the EU wants to pursue with Turkey."

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