(Bloomberg) — Turkey stepped up its criticism over the European Union’s treatment of Muslims, a day after France recalled its ambassador over the spat, signaling a deepening rift between the NATO country and its European allies.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s communications director broadened the target of the government’s ire beyond France in a series of tweets on Sunday. The comments come after Erdogan on Saturday said French President Emmanuel Macron needed “mental treatment,” saying he displayed religious intolerance after the murder of a school teacher who showed cartoon images of the Prophet Mohammed to students.
“Europe is an increasingly dangerous place for Muslims,” Fahrettin Altun said in a series of tweets on Sunday. “The dog whistle politics of offensive caricatures, accusations of separatism against Muslims, and mosque raids isn’t about freedom of expression. It’s about intimidating and reminding Muslims that they are welcome to keep the European economy going, but they will never belong,” he said.
Altun’s comments were rebuffed by Margaritis Schinas, the European Union Commissioner for Promoting the European Way of Life, who replied on Twitter saying, “Sorry to disappoint you but this is our way of life as defined in our Treaty.”
The tension between Turkey and the EU has been escalating over a number of issues from the Libyan civil war to Turkey’s energy exploration in the eastern Mediterranean with France’s Macron criticizing Erdogan of his assertion of regional power. The EU is also reliant on Turkey to help stem of refugees into the region and under a 2016 deal agreed to pay Turkey billions of dollars to help control the tide of Syrians and other migrants seeking entry.
The latest strain to relations was triggered by the murder of 47-year-old Samuel Paty, who was stabbed and beheaded near the Paris school where he worked. The killing shocked the nation and prompted thousands to take to the streets in protest. The government moved to crack down on what it described as Muslim extremists, detaining more than a dozen people, closing a Mosque and targeting some Islamist support groups.
Macron’s pledge to crack down on radical Islam contributed to Erdogan’s remarks about his mental state. The French government called those comments unacceptable.
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With far right nationalist Marine le Pen preparing another fierce fight for the 2022 French election, and the left wing looking for new alternatives, Macron is trying to win over conservative voters. In July he handed the crucial security portfolio to Gerald Darmanin, who’s got a working-class, North African background and an uncompromising commitment to France’s secular values.
“Everything we see about Muslims in European public culture today is eerily familiar to the demonization of the European Jewry in the 1920s,” Altun said.