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Erdogan slams French intellectuals: You're no different than ISIL

Remarks come after open letter signed by 300 prominent French people called for removal of some verses from the Quran.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has hit out at a French manifesto that calls for certain passages of the Quran to be removed, likening the signatories to the text to members of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also known as ISIS) group.

An open letter, published on April 22 in Le Parisien newspaper and signed by nearly 300 prominent French figures, argued that verses of the Quran calling for the "murder and punishment of Jews, Christians and disbelievers" should be removed because they are "obsolete".

Signatories included former French President Nicolas Sarkozy and former Prime Minister Manuel Valls as well as intellectuals and other public figures.

"Who are you to attack our scriptures? We know how vile you are," Erdogan retorted on Tuesday in a speech in the capital, Ankara.

"You are no different than ISIL," he said.

"Have they ever read their books, the Bible? Or the Torah?" Erdogan asked, referring to the Christian and Jewish holy books, adding: "If they had read them, they probably would want to ban the Bible."

The letter said "Islamist radicalisation" was to blame for what it described as a "quiet ethnic purging" in the Paris region, with abuse forcing Jewish families to move out.

A third of France's record hate crimes target Jews, despite the community making up only 0.7 percent of the population. 

But Erdogan also pointed to Islamophobia in the West, saying Ankara had warned its partners of "Islamophobia, anti-Turkish feeling, xenophobia, and racism".

Tense relations

Relations between Turkey and the West have been tense following a failed coup in July 2016, but ties with France have been further strained in recent weeks.

Tension rose after French President Emmanuel Macron offered to mediate between Turkey and outlawed Kurdish fighters, an offer furiously rejected by Erdogan.  

Despite the letter being published last month, the Turkish government first reacted on the weekend as the country gets ready for parliamentary and presidential polls in June.

Turkey's Europe Minister Omer Celik said on Sunday the letter was "the most striking example of intellectual violence and barbarity".

Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said: "No one can dare to touch even a single letter of Quran; it is under God's protection."

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