A non-governmental body for European Muslims has called the recent expulsion of a female Turkish-origin politician from a Belgian party an act of "anti-Islam forces in Belgian politics".
Mahinur Özdemir, a Turkish-heritage member of the Brussels regional parliament, was thrown out from her Humanist Democratic Centre party (CDH) last Friday over her refusal to recognize the 1915 events concerning Armenians during the Ottoman Empire period as "genocide".
The Strasbourg-based European Muslim Initiative for Social Cohesion said in a statement Thursday that Özdemir had been the "target of anti-immigrant and anti-Islam forces in Belgian politics," and her expulsion came "after some political and media pressure because she refused to take a position when her party demanded that she accept the Armenian allegations of genocide".
"She learned about the expulsion from Twitter. Freedom of expression, a basic right, was totally ignored," the statement said, adding that Özdemir became also a target of racial harassment on social media.
"Lots of racist and Islamophobic arguments are being used in the social media where many Belgian people are telling Mrs. Mahinur Özdemir to go back to her homeland," the statement added.
The organization said that a political controversy should not be used to violate fundamental human rights, freedom of expression and thought of migrants in Europe. It urged intergovernmental organizations, civil society organizations working on human rights, rights of women and democracy to speak up for Özdemir.
"Make it known to Belgian government that stigmatization of Muslims, Turks or other minority groups is not acceptable," it said.
Özdemir is the first woman sporting an Islamic headscarf to become a member of a Belgian assembly.
Last week, CDH President Benoit Lutgen said that any member of the party who denied what he called "the Armenian genocide" would be expelled.
Özdemir said there was no court order that could force one to recognize as genocide the events concerning Armenian deaths in 1915; she also claimed a European Parliament resolution in April recognizing the 1915 events as genocide was also non-binding.
Özdemir said that she would continue to highlight issues of discrimination, poverty and unemployment in the Belgian parliament.
Turkey and Armenia disagree on what happened during the events in Anatolia between 1915 and 1923. Armenia says that 1.5 million people were deliberately killed, while Turkey says the death toll is exaggerated and deaths were a result of relocations and civil strife.
Armenia has demanded an apology and compensation, while Turkey has officially refuted Armenian allegations over the incidents saying that, although Armenians died during the relocations, many Turks also lost their lives in attacks carried out by Armenian gangs in Anatolia.