Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has accused European leaders of hostility towards Muslims in the aftermath of a German police raid on a mosque in Berlin.
The raid included more than 100 police officers searching several businesses and a mosque in Berlin and seizing €7,000 ($8,300) in cash, data storage devices, computers and files as part of a fraud investigation earlier this week, according to the office of Berlin’s attorney general.
Three people were reportedly accused of having falsely claimed almost €70,000 ($83,000) in coronavirus subsidies, with at least one payment being claimed by an account that belongs to Berlin’s Mevlana Mosque.
“I strongly condemn the police raid on the Mevlana Mosque in Berlin during morning prayers,” Erdoğan tweeted on Friday, adding that the police operation was “obviously nourished by racism and Islamophobia, totally disregarding freedom of belief and bringing Europe closer to the darkness of the Middle Ages.”
Ali Erbaş, the head of Turkey’s Religious Affairs Directorate, also said in a tweet that “our sensibilities and what we hold sacred were disregarded in the German police raid at the time of morning prayers,” strongly condemning a “hateful attitude.”
“In Europe in particular, we are witnessing that officials support the language of hate produced over hostility towards Islam. This discriminatory and disrespectful treatment of Muslims is unacceptable for any reason,” Erbaş added.
“We strongly condemn the police raid on the Mevlana Mosque, one of the oldest and most central mosques in Berlin. The sensitivity that should be shown towards the sanctity of places of worship was disregarded in this heinous act. It is unacceptable that a large number of police officers raided the mosque over a financial investigation, when the community gathered for morning prayers,” Turkey’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement.
Erdoğan also on Saturday blasted what he saw as “rising Islamophobia” in Europe, condemning France for cracking down on radical Islam following the beheading of teacher Samuel Paty.
“What problem does this person called Macron have with Muslims and Islam? Macron needs mental treatment,” he said in a speech in Kayseri.
Earlier this month French President Emmanuel Macron dedicated a high-level ceremony to Samuel Paty, a teacher who was beheaded by an 18-year-old Muslim for showing students caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad in a class in Paris on freedom of expression.
The suspect, originally from Chechnya, the predominantly Muslim Russian republic in the North Caucasus, was subsequently shot and killed by police, with French authorities’ launching a crackdown on radical Islam following the incident, closing one mosque, raiding several properties and arresting at least 15 people.
“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?” Erdoğan said.
German government spokesperson Steffen Seibert spoke out against Erdoğan’s comments questioning the mental health of Macron during a federal press conference in Berlin on Monday.
“These are defamatory statements, which are absolutely unacceptable. Especially after the horrible murder of the teacher Samuel Paty by an Islamic fanatic,” Seibert said.
The spokesperson also commented on the Turkish president’s statements condemning the police raid on the mosque in Berlin, saying, “Those in Germany who live their faith peacefully and within the law are protected by our constitution.”
“There is a freedom of religion that applies to all members of all religions. Therefore the allegations against Germany that this was discriminating against Islam have to be essentially rebutted,” he added.
German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas also labeled Erdoğan’s remarks against Macron as “a new low.” According to Deutsche Welle, the German government stands in solidarity with its European neighbor in the “fight against Islamist extremism,” Maas told reporters at a press conference on Monday.
On the same day Erdoğan called on Turkish citizens to boycott French products, saying, “I am calling on all my citizens to never help French brands or buy them,” in a televised speech at the presidential palace in Ankara.
Macron previously 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 separates church and state in France.
What led to social media campaigns calling for the boycott of French goods in supermarkets in Arab countries, as well as Turkey, were Macron’s recent comments and his support for satirical outlets publishing caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad.
Hashtags #BoycottFrenchProducts and #NeverTheProphet trended across countries that included Kuwait, Qatar, Palestine, Egypt, Algeria, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and Turkey.
According to Turkey’s statistical institute, France is the 10th biggest source of imports into the country and the seventh largest market for its exports.
Turkish economist Emin Çapa on Monday said France is among the few countries with which Turkey maintains a trade surplus and that the country’s exports to France total $7.9 billion while imports amount to $6.8 billion.
“The boycott [of French products] would actually inflict damage on us,’’ Çapa said in a tweet.