IRAN’S president has warned of “violence and bloodshed” in a deepening row over controversial French cartoons of the prophet Mohammed.
Depictions of the Prophet Mohammed are offensive to Muslims and there are calls for a boycott of French goods in Islamic countries.
President Rouhani addressed the cartoons – which have been branded Islamophobic – at a meeting of the Islamic Republic’s cabinet on Wednesday.
He said; “Insulting the prophet is no achievement. It’s immoral. It’s encouraging violence.
“It’s a surprise that this would come from those claiming culture and democracy, that they would somehow, even if unintentionally, encourage violence and bloodshed.”
Rouhani added: “Westerners must understand the great Prophet of Islam is loved by all Muslims and freedom-lovers of the world.
“Insulting the Prophet is insulting all Muslims. Insulting the Prophet is insulting all prophets, human values, and amounts to undermining ethic.”
It came Turkish leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan slammed France after Charlie Hebdo published a cartoon of him in underpants lifting up a woman’s hijab – further deepening the row over free speech.
Britain’s foreign secretary Dominic Raab today announced the UK stands alongside France, saying “Terrorism can never and should never be justified.”
In a veiled rebuke to fellow NATO member Turkey, Raab added the alliance and “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”.
Samuel Paty, 47, was beheaded by 18-year-old Abdullah Anzorov on October 17 after using the cartoons to teach his students about the importance of free speech.
He was was posthumously given the Legion d’Honneur – France’s highest award – and French president Emmanuel Macron insisted the country would “not give up our cartoons”.
Prophet Mohammed cartoons have been displayed in France in solidarity with Paty to defend what many in the country see as its values of free speech and secularism.
Macron has said he would redouble efforts to stop conservative Islamic beliefs subverting French values – which has angered many Muslims.
Iranian foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif also hit back at France on Monday as he said Muslims are the “primary victims of the ‘cult of hatred’ empowered by colonial regimes and exported by their own clients”.
He added: “Insulting 1.9billion Muslims— and their sanctities—for the abhorrent crimes of such extremists is an opportunistic abuse of freedom of speech.”
Some 240 members of the Iranian parliament also issued a statement blasting France’s “anti-human” stance and accused Macron of being behind of wider plan against Muslims.
In a statement, the Iranian Army added: “Those who claim to champion human rights are generalising the actions of one … to the whole of Islam.”
President Erdogan has led the personal attacks on Macron, with whom he has a fraught relationship, and also called for a boycott of French products.
“What is the problem of this person called Macron with Muslims and Islam? Macron needs treatment on a mental level,” he said.
He then went on to compare the treatment of Muslims to the way Hitler and the Nazis treated Jewish people in the 1930s.
Muslims are “now subjected to a lynch campaign similar to that against Jews in Europe before World War II,” he blasted.
Erdogan’s response was depicted by Charlie Hebdo as it features him sitting in a white T-shirt and underpants, holding a canned drink as he lifts a woman’s hijab to look at her naked body beneath.
The new cartoon immediately drew sharp criticism from the Turkish officials.
Presidential spokesman Ibrahim Kalin wrote on Twitter: “They are just showing their own vulgarity and immorality. An attack on personal rights is not humour and freedom expression.”
Turkish presidential communications director Fahrettin Altun tweeted: “Macron’s anti-Muslim agenda is bearing fruit!
“We condemn this most disgusting effort by this publication to spread its cultural racism and hatred.”
Prosecutors in Turkey have also reportedly opened an investigation into Charlie Hebdo.
France has launched a crackdown on what it perceives to be radical Islam, announcing it has searched more than 120 homes and closed down a mosque in Pantin.
Paty, a history and geography teacher, is being seen as a champion of free speech by many in France after his brutal death.
The image he showed to students was the same one published by Charlie Hebdo that sparked the attack on the magazine’s offices that killed 12.
Nine people – including members of the attacker’s family – have been arrested over his death.
His killing came after another knife attack near the former offices of Charlie Hebdo just weeks prior – in which the suspect is believed to have tried to target the magazine.