Recep Tayyip Erdogan speaks at AK Party headquarters in Ankara
Recep Tayyip Erdogan speaks at AK Party headquarters in AnkaraREUTERS/Umit Bektas

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Monday blamed France's nationwide riots on "institutional racism" and the country's colonial past, AFP reported.

His comments come as the French government has been battling riots and looting in Paris and across the country sparked by the death of 17-year-old Nahel Merzouk, a French citizen of Algerian background, who was shot dead by a police officer during a traffic stop last week.

Erdogan, who has portrayed himself as a defender of the world's Muslims since leading his Islamic-rooted party to power in Turkey two decades ago, blamed the French unrest on "Islamophobia" that he linked to France's colonial past.

"In countries known for their colonial past, cultural racism has turned into institutional racism," he was quoted as having said after chairing a weekly cabinet meeting.

"At the root of the events that started in France is the social architecture built by this mentality. Most of the immigrants who are condemned to live in ghettos, who are systematically oppressed, are Muslims," added Erdogan.

Nearly 900 people were arrested over the rioting on the weekend.

A Holocaust memorial in Paris was also vandalized by protesters.