UK says NATO should defend free speech amid escalating row between Turkey and France


Britain’s Foreign Secretary said on Wednesday that NATO allies should defend tolerance and free speech in an apparent rebuke of Turkey’s recent call for a boycott of French goods.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has led calls across the Muslim world for a boycott of France over its response to the murder of a teacher by Islamic extremists earlier this month.

But in a statement, Dominic Raab said: “The UK stands in solidarity with France and the French people in the wake of the appalling murder of Samuel Paty.”

Samuel Paty is reported to have been targeted by an Islamic extremist after showing students in Paris an image of the Prophet Mohammed during a class on freedom of expression. Images of the prophet are widely considered blasphemous in Islam.

“NATO allies and the wider international community must stand shoulder-to-shoulder on the fundamental values of tolerance and free speech, and we should never give terrorists the gift of dividing us,” Raab said.

The UK has traditionally been a close ally of Ankara, but Raab’s comments appear to be an implicit criticism of Turkey, which has become embroiled in a deepening row with fellow NATO member France in the aftermath of Paty’s killing.

Earlier this week, Erdoğan condemned French President Marcon’s description of Islam as in “crisis” and in need of reform in line with French values.

The dispute escalated on Wednesday after French magazine Charlie Hebdo published a cartoon of Erdoğan lifting the dress of a veiled woman.

Turkish authorities have threatened to sue the satirical outlet over the image.

Charlie Hebdo’s offices were attacked by Islamic extremists in 2015 after previously publishing cartoons mocking the Prophet Mohammed.



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