Erdogan urges Turks to boycott French goods

Call comes after French leader's vow to fight 'Islamist separatism'

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan (left) has harsh words for French leader Emmanuel Macron. Tens of thousands of protesters marched through the Bangladeshi capital of Dhaka yesterday calling for a boycott of French products.
Tens of thousands of protesters marched through the Bangladeshi capital of Dhaka yesterday calling for a boycott of French products.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan (left) has harsh words for French leader Emmanuel Macron.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan (left) has harsh words for French leader Emmanuel Macron.

ANKARA • Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has called for Turks to boycott French goods and urged European Union leaders to halt French leader Emmanuel Macron's "anti-Islam" agenda.

For a third day running, Mr Erdogan on Monday said Mr Macron needed a mental health check - repeating a rebuke that led France to recall its ambassador from Ankara over the weekend - as he appealed to Turks to shun French products.

"Just like they say 'Don't buy goods with Turkish brands' in France, I am calling all my citizens from here to never help French brands or buy them," he said.

France is the 10th biggest source of imports into Turkey and the seventh biggest market for Turkish exports, according to Turkey's statistical institute. Among major French imports, autos are among the highest-selling cars in Turkey.

"European leaders with foresight and morals must break down the walls of fear," Mr Erdogan said at the start of a week of activities in Turkey to commemorate the birthday of Prophet Muhammad.

"They must put an end to the anti-Islam agenda and hate campaign that Macron is leading."

Late on Monday, the French embassy in Ankara issued a warning to French nationals living and travelling in Turkey to exercise "great vigilance" due to the "local and international" context, urging them to avoid any gathering or demonstration in public places.

President Macron has pledged to fight "Islamist separatism", saying it was threatening to take over some Muslim communities in France. The country has been shaken by the beheading of a teacher by an Islamist militant, avenging the use of cartoons of the Prophet in a class.

French teacher Samuel Paty was killed by a Chechen teenager on Oct 16 after showing cartoons of the Prophet in a discussion on freedom of speech.

Any depiction of the Prophet is forbidden in Islam.

Turkey and France, both members of the Nato military alliance, have been at odds over issues including Syria and Libya, maritime jurisdiction in the eastern Mediterranean and the conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh.

Mr Macron has been the target of protests in several other Muslim-majority nations over his comments following Mr Paty's beheading.

In Bangladesh yesterday, tens of thousands of protesters marched through the capital Dhaka urging people to boycott French products.

Police estimated that more than 40,000 people took part in the march organised by an Islamist party that was halted before it could get close to the French embassy. Protesters chanting "Boycott French products" and calling for Mr Macron to be punished choked the streets.

Hundreds of police deployed a barbed wire barricade across a road about 5km from the embassy to stop them from advancing.

Before breaking up, one group doused an effigy with a Macron face in kerosene and set it ablaze, shouting anti-French slogans.

The rally was organised by Islami Andolan Bangladesh, one of the largest Islamist parties in the Muslim-majority country of 168 million people. The party has called for more nationwide protests to take place tomorrow and on Friday.

"Macron is one of the few leaders who worship Satan," Mr Ataur Rahman, a senior Islami Andolan leader, told the rally.

He called on the Bangladesh government to expel the French ambassador while another leader said activists would "tear down every brick" of the embassy if the envoy was not ordered out.

"France is the enemy of Muslims. Those who represent them are also our enemies," said Mr Nesar Uddin, another leader from the group.

Police said that extra forces were patrolling around the French embassy in the diplomatic district.

France is a major trade partner of Bangladesh, whose garment factories sell apparel worth billions of dollars to French brands. Lafarge, the world's top cement maker, is one of the largest French investors in Bangladesh.

There have been several violent Islamist incidents in Bangladesh in recent years. A group linked to the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria killed at least 17 foreigners, including seven Italians and nine Japanese, in an attack on a Dhaka cafe in July 2016.

REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 28, 2020, with the headline 'Erdogan urges Turks to boycott French goods'. Print Edition | Subscribe