Turkish prime minister Recip Tayyip Erdogan has hit back at criticism of his comments linking ongoing urban violence in France to the ban on headscarves introduced last year.
His remarks on Monday provoked a barrage of criticism from secular parties who accused him of justifying the violence and threatening Turkey's EU membership bid. At a televised meeting of his Justice and Development (AKP) party on Tuesday Erdogan said he had been misquoted, adding that "the headscarf ban has an impact on the riots in France" but was not the "sole reason".
The Turkish leader also urged Turks living in Europe, [more than four million], to act calmly and peacefully.
"Turks must actively participate in the social and political life of the countries they live in," he added. "They should be part of European society while protecting their own values."
Erdogan's linking of the controversial French ban on wearing the Muslim headscarf in schools to the twelfth night of street battles that have spread from Paris to regional cities, dominated the front pages of Tuesday's Turkish press.
Girls in Turkish schools and universities are also are not allowed to wear headscarfs but Erdogan’s Islamic rooted Justice and Development Party (AKP) pledged to lift the headscarf ban in Turkish schools before coming to power in 2002 elections, AKI reports.