France has recalled its ambassador from Turkey “for consultations” after Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the Turkish president, suggested that his French counterpart, Emmanuel Macron, needed a mental health examination.
Mr Erdogan’s outburst came after Mr Macron declared “war” on political Islam in France following the beheading of a teacher who showed his class cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad.
Calls for boycotts of French goods are growing in the Muslim world since Mr Macron vowed “not to give up caricatures and cartoons” last week. Even before Samuel Paty’s murder, Mr Macron had triggered a backlash by describing Islam as "a religion that is in crisis all over the world” and pledging to combat “Islamist separatism”.
Imran Khan, Pakistan’s prime minister, entered the row on Sunday, accusing Mr Macron of “attacking Islam”.
In a televised address the previous day, Mr Erdogan said: "What can one say about a head of state who treats millions of members from different faith groups this way: first of all, have mental check-ups… What’s the problem of the individual called Macron with Islam and the Muslims?”
France reacted with outrage. Jean-Yves Le Drian, the foreign minister, on Sunday accused Mr Erdogan of “trying to whip up hatred” of France. Mr Le Drian described his remarks as "hateful, slanderous propaganda against France”. He also expressed disappointment at Turkey’s failure to condemn Mr Paty’s killing or express solidarity with France.
In recent months, France and Turkey, both Nato members, have been at loggerheads over a range of issues including oil and gas exploration in the eastern Mediterranean, conflicts in Libya and Syria, and fighting between Armenia and Azerbaijan over the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region.
The remarks by Mr Erdogan, whose AK party has Islamist roots and has tried to bring Islam into the mainstream of Turkish politics, were also condemned as “unacceptable” by Josep Borrell, the EU’s top diplomat. He urged Turkey “to cease this dangerous spiral of confrontation”.
However, Mr Erodgan’s communications chief, Fahrettin Altun, tweeted in English that “offensive caricatures” of the prophet Muhammad were not a legitimate exercise of 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 - against the backdrop of lectures about integration.
Everything we see about Muslims in European public culture today is eerily familiar to the demonization of the European Jewry in the 1920s.”
In Pakistan, the prime minister tweeted: "It is unfortunate that [Mr Macron] has chosen to encourage Islamophobia by attacking Islam rather than the terrorists who carry out violence, be it Muslims, White Supremacists or Nazi ideologists.”
In Qatar and Kuwait, dozens of shops removed French food products, such as Kiri and Babybel cheese, from sale at the weekend. Qatar University said it was postponing French Cultural Week indefinitely.
In the largely Arab Israeli town of Jaffa, near Tel Aviv, some 200 people protested outside the French ambassador’s residence on Saturday.
Many Jordanians changed their social media profiles to add the message, “Respect Muhammad the prophet of Allah”.