Turkish religious authority head warns against Islamophobic threat

ANADOLU AGENCY
STRASBOURG
Published 12.04.2016 21:32

The head of Turkey's state-run religious affairs body has called on the West to avoid Islamophobic rhetoric amid rising far-right activity in Europe and the refugee crisis. "Our Western friends must primarily protect themselves from ostracizing, marginalizing and [holding a] discriminatory mentality," Mehmet Görmez, the head of the Presidency of Religious Affairs (DİB), told Anadolu Agency (AA) yesterday in Strasbourg.

Görmez was attending a conference to celebrate the anniversary of the birth of the Prophet Muhammad, which falls in April. "Phobia is an illness. But this illness should not be vocalized. We all have to make an effort to prevent this illness from turning into hatred and marginalization," Görmez said, adding that anti-Muslim outbursts in Western countries have caused Muslims to become alienated from society.

Görmez's comments come amid rising Islamophobia in the West with United States Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump's outspoken comments against Muslims.

Critics say Trump's rhetoric does not only incite violence but is also a strategy to gain support from U.S. voters angered by terror attacks.

Europe is facing the worst refugee and migrant crisis since World War II, and the European Union member states' inability to reach common asylum policies has also prompted a rise in far-right and anti-immigrant parties.

Görmez said violence, war, colonization and the invasion of other countries are some of the many reasons behind the marginalization of people from Muslim backgrounds. France, for instance, has a large Algerian population as a result of its colonial rule in the country from 1830 to 1962. Moroccans are also the largest group of non-Western immigrants in Belgium, with almost 82,000 residing in the country in 2010, according to Belgian government data.

The chief planners behind the Paris and Brussels attacks were French and Belgian citizens of Moroccan and Algerian origin, raised in the impoverished Brussels district of Molenbeek.

With a female unemployment rate of 33.1 percent and male unemployment rate of 28.6 percent - according to 2013 figures released by the Brussels Institute for Statistics and Analysis - Molenbeek is one of the most marginalized foreign-populated areas in Belgium.

Görmez said Muslims must also make an effort to rebuild their principles of coexistence in the societies in which they live in and that "the evil, which is behind the anger and hatred against Islam, must be eliminated." He added that students in Europe should be taught about all religions, including Islam, "in the correct manner."

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