Growing intolerance in Europe targets Muslim politicians with baseless allegations

Published 25.04.2016 23:40

Muslim politicians have been facing growing intolerance and pressure across Europe, and some of them have had to even leave their posts after smear campaigns built upon baseless claims and allegations.

With the rise of racism on the continent, Muslim politicians are being attacked in countries such as Belgium and the Netherlands, forcing many to give up politics, although some are resisting the pressure.

Muslim politicians in Sweden and Germany have been put under pressure due to their relationships with non-governmental organizations, while in the Netherlands and Belgium some face attack for their refusal to accept claims of an Armenian genocide.

In the U.K., the Conservative Party's candidate for London mayor, Zac Goldsmith, has accused his opponent Sadiq Khan of links to extremists.

The Swedish housing minister, who was forced to quit last week, told Anadolu Agency he had been "slandered" over alleged links to Daesh, while Mehmet Kaplan quit after media attacks.

Kaplan, who is of Turkish origin, said his work involved attending events organized by non-governmental organizations (NGO). "I can't question who comes and who does not come to these gatherings," he said, adding that all the organizations were legal in Sweden.

"Despite me and my party having always fought against racism, Islamophobia, anti-Semitism and any kind of extremism, [the media] has tried to portray me as a racist and radical Islamist," he said.

The resignation comes amid reports of tensions within the centre-left minority coalition government of Prime Minister Stefan Lofven's Social Democrats and the Green Party.

Fellow Green Party member Yasri Shamsudin Khan is another Muslim who quit politics after he was condemned for not shaking a female journalist's hand. Khan said he did not shake her hand because of his beliefs, instead placing his hand on his chest in greeting.

"People can greet each other in different ways. The most important thing is to show respect by seeing each other, to meet each other ... to respect each other," Khan said during an interview with state broadcaster Swedish Radio.

Khan, also the general secretary of the Swedish Muslims for Peace and Justice, has faced strong criticism from within his party since the incident.

"It is unacceptable. You can't have a man in the party who can't greet women in the same way you greet a man. I'm upset," Stina Bergstrom, a Green Party parliamentarian, told Swedish tabloid Aftonbladet.

Yasin Ipek, a member of the Sigtuna city council, was forced to resign after attending an iftar dinner organized by an NGO.

"A PKK supporters' group in the Swedish media composed of anti-Turkish and anti-Muslim journalists are conducting an unbelievable campaign to eliminate young, promising Turkish and Muslim politicians," he claimed.

In Germany, Nebahat Güçlü, a member of the Hamburg state parliament, said party leaders in the country accepted politicians from immigrant communities as a way of securing votes but excluded them from decision-making.

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