'Political Instrument': Erdogan Using French Row to Present Himself as 'Major Leader of Sunni Islam'

© AP Photo / Turkish PresidencyTurkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan addresses his party members, in Ankara, Turkey, Thursday, Aug. 13, 2020
Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan addresses his party members, in Ankara, Turkey, Thursday, Aug. 13, 2020 - Sputnik International
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has urged Turks to boycott French goods after French President Emmaneul Macron called for a tougher stance on radical Islam. Gilbert Mercier, editor-in-chief of News Junkie Post, joined Radio Sputnik’s Political Misfits to discuss how Erdogan is using Islam as a “political instrument.”

In a televised speech on Monday, Erdogan urged citizens not to buy French-labeled goods, stating that Muslims are now “subjected to a lynch campaign similar to that against Jews in Europe before World War II,” BBC reported. 

Over the weekend, Erdogan also said that Macron needs a mental health check after Macron said that state secularism is imperative to France’s national identity and vowed that the country would not give up political caricatures and cartoons last week.

He also announced that the government would introduce a bill in December to fortify a 1905 law that separates religion from the state.

According to Mercier, the rift between Ankara and Paris began after the October 16 beheading of Samuel Paty, a teacher who had shown cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad to his students. Depictions of the prophet are considered blasphemous by many followers of Islam.

​Paty was killed in the Conflans-Sainte-Honorine suburb of Paris by Abdoullakh Abouyedovich Anzorov, an 18-year-old Muslim refugee. Anzorov was shot and killed by police minutes after killing Paty.

“Of course as you mentioned, a trigger was the beheading of a French history teacher that was a couple of weeks ago. He had shown a caricature of Prophet Muhammad in his classroom to illustrate the importance of free speech,” Mercier told show hosts Bob Schlehuber and Michelle Witte on Monday.

“The call to boycott French products is also mixed with various invectives against Macron,” Mercier added.

“It seems to me that what needs to be done on all sides is to defuse a potentially explosive situation and that is not happening … Needless to say, Erdogan’s comments on Macron's supposed mental illness, that’s not helping,” he continued, adding that Erdogan has supported Qatar and Saudi Arabia in advocating Sunni Islam.

“Erdogan is trying to use the religion and this diplomatic skirmish for his own political benefit … he is presenting himself as the major leader of Sunni Islam. In fact, Erdogan is catering to Turks’ nostalgia for the Ottoman Empire,” Mercier explained.

“He’s using Islam as a political instrument. That’s what he’s doing,” he added.

In a statement Sunday, the French Foreign Ministry called the proposed boycotts against French products in the Middle East “baseless.”

"These calls for boycott are baseless and should stop immediately, as well as all attacks against our country, which are being pushed by a radical minority," the statement said, France24 reported.

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