UK Urges NATO Allies to Challenge Turkey: Back French Support of Free Speech

France's President Emmanuel Macron (C) gestures next to Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan (L) and Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel (R) during a family photo as part of the NATO summit at the Grove hotel in Watford, northeast of London on December 4, 2019. (Photo by CHRISTIAN HARTMANN / POOL / …

Britain’s Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab called on NATO allies Wednesday to back shared values of tolerance and free speech, in a direct rebuke to Turkey which demands a boycott of French goods because Muslim feelings were hurt by cartoons.

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan has urged Turks and the wider Muslim world to reject French trade while accusing it of pursuing an anti-Islam agenda. Britain, France and Turkey are all NATO members.

Erdogan is one of several leaders in the Muslim world angry with France over its response to the brutal beheading of teacher Samuel Paty by an Islamic terrorist.

Paty had taught a class on freedom of expression, showing his students cartoons of Muhammad published by the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, before he was publicly executed.

The assailant was shot dead by police shortly after the killing and was later identified as Abdullakh Anzorov, a Moscow-born Chechen migrant.

“The UK stands in solidarity with France and the French people in the wake of the appalling murder of Samuel Paty,” Raab said in a statement as seen by Reuters. “Terrorism can never and should never be justified.”

Raab urged NATO allies and the wider international community to “stand shoulder-to-shoulder on the fundamental values of tolerance and free speech,” saying nobody should give terrorists “the gift of dividing us.”

The French government, backed by its citizens, saw the beheading as an attack on free speech and said they would defend the right to display the cartoons while challenging Islam’s assumed “right” to never be criticised or challenged.

Macron called the teacher a hero, and he pledged to fight “Islamist separatism”, saying it was threatening to take over some Muslim communities in France.

The reaction to Paty’s murder has caused widespread anger in Muslim countries, where there have been anti-French demonstrations and calls for boycott as well as direct threats against President Emmanuel Macron, as Breitbart News reported.

France’s foreign ministry on Tuesday issued safety advice to French citizens in Indonesia, Turkey, Bangladesh, Iraq and Mauritania, advising them to exercise caution. They should stay away from any protests over the cartoons and avoid any public gatherings.

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