Turkey in furious 'holy war' threat after EU headscarf ruling: 'This is a clash between cross and crescent'

Turkish President Erdogan has accused Europe of fuelling a 'clash' between Islam and Christianity after an EU court ruling allowed employers to ban headscarves and other religious symbols in the workplace.

'Shame on the EU. Down with your European principles, values and justice,' Erdogan told supporters in Sakarya. 'They started a clash between the cross and the crescent, there is no other explanation.'

ReutersTurkish President Tayyip Erdogan has used a coup last July to start a widespread crackdown on his political opponents

In a toxic war of words that alluded to the Crusades, Erdogan spoke amid an ongoing row after Turkish ministers were barred from holding rallies designed to whip up support for a constitutional referendum.

Erdogan referred to a ruling by the European Court of Justice that said employees can be prevented from the 'visible wearing of any political, philosophical or religious sign' including Islamic headscarves.

His speech comes after the his foreign minister warned 'holy wars will soon begin' in an aggressive tit-for-tat exchange after Dutch and German authorities banned Turkish political campaigning.

'When you look at the many parties you see there is no difference between the social democrats and fascist [Geert] Wilders. All have the same mentality,' said Mevlut Cavusoglu. 'Where will you go? Where are you taking Europe? You have begun to collapse Europe. You are dragging Europe into the abyss. Holy wars will soon begin in Europe.'

The Turkish foreign minister was due to hold a rally in Rotterdam on Saturday but Dutch officials withdrew his permission to land.

Erdogan and other government figures have called the Dutch ministers 'fascists' and 'Nazis' in response with EU leaders retaliating saying the allegations were 'detached from reality'.

The dispute has sparked protests in Turkey and around Europe ahead of a referendum on April 16.

Ministers are targeting Turkish voters in Europe who could swing the decision and see Turkey's parliamentary system replaced with an executive presidency. The possibility has caused alarm among human rights groups concerned with the sweeping powers it would hand Erdogan.

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