Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has launched a fresh attack on Emmanuel Macron, saying the French president needed treatment and “mental checks” over his attitude towards Muslims and Islam, leading Paris to recall its ambassador in Ankara.
Earlier this month, Macron pledged to fight “Islamist separatism”, which he said was threatening to take control in some Muslim communities around France, drawing a sharp rebuke from Erdogan.
“What is the problem of this person called Macron with Muslims and Islam? Macron needs treatment on a mental level,” Erdogan said in a speech at a provincial congress of his Justice and Development (AK) Party in the central Turkish city of Kayseri on Saturday.
“What else can be said to a head of state who does not understand freedom of belief and who behaves in this way to millions of people living in his country who are members of a different faith? First of all, have mental checks.”
Erdogan, a pious Muslim, and his conservative AK party have ruled Turkey for 18 years after taking over the nation of 75 million people during a political crisis and economic downturn in 2002.
Following his comments, France recalled its envoy to Turkey for consultations after deeming Erdogan’s speech “unacceptable”.
“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,” a French presidential official told the AFP news agency.
The Elysee official, who asked not to be named, also said France had noted “the absence of messages of condolence and support” from the Turkish president after the beheading of teacher Samuel Paty outside Paris.
France has been shaken by the beheading of a history teacher earlier this month.
The assailant had wanted to avenge the teacher’s use of cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad in a class on freedom of expression.
On October 6, the Turkish president said, after Macron’s initial comments on “Islamist separatism”, that the remarks were “a clear provocation” and showed the French leader’s “impertinence”.
Macron this month also described Islam as a religion “in crisis” worldwide and said the government would present a bill in December to strengthen a 1905 law that officially separated church and state in France.
France and its NATO ally are at loggerheads over a range of issues including maritime rights in the eastern Mediterranean, Libya, Syria and most recently the escalating conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan over Nagorno-Karabakh.
Erdogan and Macron discussed their disagreements in a phone call last month and agreed to improve ties and keep communication channels open.