Ankara (AFP) – Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Tuesday hit out at a French manifesto calling for certain passages of the Koran to be removed in response to rising anti-Semitism.
An open letter, published on April 22 in Le Parisien newspaper and signed by nearly 300, argued verses of the Koran calling for the “murder and punishment of Jews, Christians and disbelievers” should be removed because they are “obsolete”.
Signatories included former French president Nicolas Sarkozy and former prime minister Manuel Valls as well as intellectuals and other public figures.
“Who are you to attack our scriptures? We know how vile you are,” Erdogan retorted.
“Have they ever read their books, the Bible? Or the Torah?” Erdogan asked, referring to the Christian and Jewish holy books, adding: “If they had read them, they probably would want to ban the Bible.”
The signatories in the letter said “Islamist radicalisation” was to blame for what it described as a “quiet ethnic purging” in the Paris region, with abuse forcing Jewish families to move out.
A third of France’s record hate crimes target Jews, despite the community making up only 0.7 percent of the population.
But Erdogan also pointed to Islamophobia in the West, saying Ankara had warned its partners of “Islamophobia, anti-Turkish feeling, xenophobia, racism”.
Relations between Turkey and the West have been tense following the July 2016 failed coup but ties with France have been further strained in recent weeks.
Tension rose after French President Emmanuel Macron offered to mediate between Turkey and outlawed Kurdish militants, an offer furiously rejected by Erdogan in March.
Despite the letter being published last month, the Turkish government first reacted at the weekend as the country gets ready for parliamentary and presidential polls in June.
Turkey’s Europe Minister Omer Celik said on Sunday the letter was “the most striking example of intellectual violence and barbarity”.
Deputy Prime Minister Bekir Bozdag said on Monday that the signatories were the “21st century’s idiots” and said this was the “Western version” of the Islamic State extremist group.