President Recep Tayyip Erdogan urged Turks to boycott French goods over what he called the hostile stance toward Muslims by the country’s leaders, threatening to deepen the rift between the two NATO members.
The comments add to his criticism of President Emmanuel Macron, who Turkey accuses of displaying intolerance against Islam. Over the weekend, France called Erdogan’s personal attacks on Macron unacceptable and withdrew its ambassador to Turkey.
Attacks on Muslims in Europe “are being carried out with the incitement of the leader of France who is in need of a mental check,” Erdogan said in televised comments from Ankara, as he asked the nation of 83 million people to stop buying goods made by French companies.
The Turkish leader’s communications director broadened the government’s attack, saying Muslims don’t feel welcome in Europe because of widespread hatred toward the holders of their faith.
Investors took Turkey’s criticism of European nations as a sign of increasing tensions and the change in sentiment took a toll on Turkish assets. The lira hit a new fresh low and the benchmark Borsa Istanbul 100 Index fell to a session low after Erdogan’s comments.
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 for his assertion of regional power.
The latest strain to relations was triggered by the murder of 47-year-old Samuel Paty, who was beheaded near the Paris school where he worked after showing cartoon images of the Prophet Mohammed to students in a discussion of free speech.
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.