Charlie Hebdo’s publications have moved from the field of freedom of expression to the field of provocation. I was among those who stood for them in the name of freedom of expression and non-violence regardless of the Prophet Mohammad cartoons they published when Al-Qaida terrorists raided the Charlie Hebdo building and killed five people, injuring 11 in 2015. Then-Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu represented Turkey at the funeral of the victims. But their last wave of cartoons has no purpose other than provocation.
I do not want to believe that a person who has become the president of France has such a shallow and vulgar sense of humor to find such lowness funny. At the heart of pluralist democracy is empathy, putting yourself in the other’s shoes. Is Emmanuel Macron putting himself in the shoes of his Muslim citizens who live in the cities of Toulouse or Montpellier, which fueled the fire by projecting the Charlie Hebdo cartoons, which aim at insulting, on public buildings? What has been done is extremely disturbing for not only the radical Islamist terrorist organizations but also the ordinary devout Muslims, secular Muslims, and indeed everyone who respects humanitarian values. But Macron plays with fire by backing them just because they target Erdoğan, Turkey and Muslims.
The meaning of playing with fire
Erdoğan reacted strongly to Macron. He said the French president needed mental treatment and accused him of being Islamophobia. Then he called for a boycott on French goods. The parties in the Turkish parliament jointly condemned the systematization of insults under the name of freedom of expression. Turks living in France and Germany, might hold protests or some French citizens might not vote for Macron and that would be all. The tension between the states would decrease tomorrow. The history of the relations between the two countries goes back to 500 years ago. They both experienced hostilities and friendship. Just a few weeks ago, Erdoğan was speaking of reviving the French-Italian missile production project in Turkey as an alternative to Russian S-400 systems and U.S. Patriots. The annual trade between the two countries is at 15 billion dollars. This is not the source of the fire.
The source of the fire played by Macron is the organizations that carry out terrorist acts in the name of their Islamic cause. The Al-Qaeda members who carried out the 2015 attack were two brothers of Algerian origin who were born in Paris. Some 10 percent of the population in Paris is Muslim. Some 9 percent of France’s population is Muslim, this refers to nearly 6 million people. Most of France’s Muslim population is from former North African colonies. From Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia. Macron could spread the fire in his home to Europe. Some 25 percent of Brussels and 15 percent of Berlin are Muslim.
Election manipulation by diverting the agenda
Erdoğan is not the inventor diverting the agenda for election purposes. There is no doubt that Erdoğan would prefer the voter reactions to target Macron through Charlie Hebdo at a time when the lira is constantly losing its value (unfortunately it was trading at 8.23 per dollar when this article was penned), the money in our pocket is melting, the coronavirus pandemic is climbing again and the education system, which was already in a bad shape, is seriously worsening.
You can be sure that Macron is also benefiting from Erdoğan’s rebukes ahead of the 2022 elections in France.
Because Macron should also be pleased that the agenda is shifting to Turkey, Muslims and Erdoğan, who he sees as an enemy to the European values and Christianity. He may be thinking, for example, that it is better than the public talking about the pandemic. France ranks 5th in the world in terms of Covid-19 cases and 7th in related deaths. (Turkey ranks 22nd and 21st respectively.) In nine cities including Paris, curfews are imposed at night. So he might be preferring Erdogan on the agenda rather than the “yellow vests” (Gilets jaunes) hitting the streets for economic demands. Macron sees giving credit to nationalism and (Catholic) religious aspects as the way to compete with Marine Le Pen, who openly follows a xenophobic and fascist line. The Charlie Hebdo provocation gives Macron flammable political material.