France has described as ‘unacceptable’ Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s remarks that his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron ‘needs treatment on a mental level’ over his defence of free speech, following the beheading of a French teacher by a radical Islamist.

Paris recalled its ambassador to Turkey ‘for consultations’ after Erdogan’s statement.

Erdogan was responding to Macron’s forceful statements in defence of France’s secular values after the beheading of school teacher Samuel Paty. Paty was murdered after having conducted a classroom discussion about the controversy over cartoon depictions of Prophet Muhammed. Depictions of the Prophet can cause serious offence to Muslims because Islamic tradition explicitly forbids such images.

The BBC notes that state secularism – or laïcité – is central to France’s national identity. Curbing freedom of expression to protect the feelings of one particular community, the state says, undermines the country’s unity.

But Erdogan asked in a speech: ‘What’s the problem of the individual called Macron with Islam and with the Muslims?’ He added: ‘Macron needs treatment on a mental level.’

Erdogan is a pious Muslim who has sought to move Islam into Turkey’s mainstream politics since his Islamist-rooted AK Party came to power in 2002, according to the BBC.

AFP quoted a French presidential official as saying: ‘President Erdogan’s comments are unacceptable. Excess and rudeness are not a method. We demand that Erdogan change the course of his policy because it is dangerous in every respect.’

[Picture: World Economic Forum, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=5181460]

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