Turkey today condemned a Charlie Hebdo cartoon showing its president Recep Tayyip Erdogan lifting a woman's burka to look at her naked backside.
Erdogan's top press aide Fahrettin Altun said the cartoon was a 'most disgusting effort by this publication to spread its cultural racism and hatred' after the image appeared on the front of this week's magazine.
It comes amid growing anger in the Islamic world at France and its president Emmanuel Macron, who has staunchly defended free expression in the wake of the beheading of school teacher Samuel Paty, who showed cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed to his class.
European leaders have come to Macron's defence in his row with Erdogan, with Britain's foreign secretary Dominic Raab today calling on NATO allies to stand together in defence of tolerance and free speech.
'The UK stands in solidarity with France and the French people in the wake of the appalling murder of Samuel Paty,' Raab said in a veiled rebuke to Turkey.
Erdogan has accused the French leader of an 'anti-Islam agenda' and tangled with him on other issues including Syria and the Mediterranean.
'French president Macron's anti-Muslim agenda is bearing fruit,' Erdogan's top press aide said today.
'Charlie Hebdo just published a series of so-called cartoons full of despicable images purportedly of our President.'
Turkey's vice president Fuat Oktay also condemned the 'immoral publication' by what he called an 'incorrigible French rag'.
'I call on the moral and conscientious international community to speak out against this disgrace,' the vice president said.
Macron has vowed that France will stick to its secular traditions and laws guaranteeing freedom of speech which allow publications such as Charlie Hebdo to produce inflammatory cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed.
Paty showed his students some of the cartoons in a lesson on free speech, leading to an online campaign against him which ended in his grisly murder.
An attack on Charlie Hebdo by jihadists in 2015 left 12 people dead, including some of its most famed cartoonists.
Macron's defence of Charlie Hebdo, and his recent comment that Islam worldwide is 'in crisis', have prompted Erdogan to urge Turks to boycott French products.
Macron's stance has also sparked anti-France protests in Turkey and in other Muslim countries including Bangladesh.
Tehran summoned a senior French envoy, the charge d'affaires, and the Saudi foreign ministry posted on Twitter to denounce 'the offensive cartoons of the Prophet'.
Malaysia's opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim slammed Macron's comments on Islam being in crisis as 'offensive' and 'unreasonable', adding in a statement: 'With freedom comes responsibility.'
Macron has also drawn fire in Pakistan and Morocco, while the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas, the Taliban in Afghanistan and the Lebanese Shiite movement Hezbollah have also spoken out against France.
Previously, European leaders including German chancellor Angela Merkel had defended Macron after Erdogan suggested he needed 'mental checks'.
'They are defamatory comments that are completely unacceptable, particularly against the backdrop of the horrific murder of the French teacher Samuel Paty by an Islamist fanatic,' Merkel's spokesman Steffen Seibert said.
On Tuesday, Dutch PM Mark Rutte came to the defence of his country's far-right politician Geert Wilders after Erdogan brought legal action against him.
Wilders had shared a cartoon of the Turkish president wearing an Ottoman hat shaped like a bomb with a lit fuse on Twitter.
'I have a message for President Erdogan and that message is simple: In the Netherlands, freedom of expression is one of our highest values,' Rutte said.
Erdogan has a track record of using legal action against critics in Europe.
He brought a case in 2016 against German TV comic Jan Boehmermann, who read out a deliberately defamatory poem about the Turkish leader during his show as part of a skit designed to illustrate the boundaries of free speech.
The row put Merkel in the awkward position of signing off on criminal proceedings against the comic under an archaic law that was later struck from the German legal code.
Tensions between France and Turkey have mounted in recent months over Turkish actions in Syria, Libya and the Caucasus region of Nagorno-Karabakh.
© Associated Newspapers Ltd.