Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte has defended his remarks made during the recent election campaign when he asked a Turkish youth to "go away to his own country," saying his comment was not actually addressed to everyone.
Rutte was speaking to lawyers, teachers and psychologists of Turkish origin in the Netherlands on Wednesday and discussed his attitude toward Turkey and its nationals.
Rutte was bitterly criticized by Turkish officials and Turks living in Europe for caving in to populism and the demands of the far-right in the run-up to the Dutch general elections for backing the ban on Turkish ministers' campaigns in the country for April 16 referendum.
The prime minister's discriminating election campaign slogan, 'Act normal or go away,' was at the center of attention at the event aimed at discussing topics including discrimination, integration, and citizenship. The event took place at Pakhuis de Zwijger hall in Amsterdam, and was attended by Dutch and Turkish participants.
According to Rutte, discrimination had always taken place in European history.
"There has always been discrimination on communities migrating to another country. But this ended as communities adapted in that country and a certain period of time passed. Sometimes it is necessary to resist discrimination," Rutte said.
In July, during a protest against the deadly failed coup attempt staged by FETÖ terrorist organization, a Dutch journalist was told to "go away" by a young man of Turkish origin. In response, the Dutch PM told the Turkish youth to "go away to his own country" on national television.
Rutte tried to defend himself by saying that his remark was not addressed to everyone.
"I only said it to the guy who was interrupting a journalist's work. If you are not happy here then leave the country," Rutte said somewhat reiterating the campaign slogan he has been criticized for.
A representative of the Turkish community, teacher Halil İbrahim Karaaslan said that the prime minister's statements in such an environment, "do not have any practical application." However, Karaaslan expressed his belief that the discussion was still constructive.
In January, as part of People's Party for Freedom and Democracy election campaign, Rutte released an open letter that offered a warning to immigrants: "Act normal or go away." The move was widely rebuked as an attempt to appease the anti-immigrant and far-right platform in the Netherlands.