As the recent terrorist attack in New Zealand proved, anti-Muslim sentiments have been spreading across the Western world and have reached a level that is posing grave danger to Muslims. Turkey has stated that it is high time for the world to launch a global fight against these ideologies.
"Just as humanity fought against anti-Semitism after the Holocaust disaster, it should fight against rising Islamophobia in the same determined fashion," President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said on Friday, during a meeting of Muslim foreign ministers in Istanbul.
The president's remarks came after a brutal massacre that took place a week ago in Christchurch in New Zealand. At least 50 Muslims were killed during the attack and as many injured by terrorist Brenton Tarrant, a 28-year-old Australian-born man. Tarrant killed worshipers in cold blood in the Al Noor and Linwood mosques in Christchurch, including four children younger than 18.
Following the attack, the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) took the decision to hold an emergency meeting in order to discuss the issue. Praising the reaction and empathy shown by New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern following the attack, Erdoğan said that Ardern's stance should be an example to world leaders.
Erdoğan also thanked the people and authorities of New Zealand for their sensitivity and determination against the attack.
Ardern announced an immediate ban Thursday on sales of "military-style" semi-automatic and automatic weapons like the ones used in the terror attacks on two mosques in Christchurch that killed 50 worshipers.
The man charged in the attack had purchased his weapons legally using a standard firearms license and enhanced their capacity by using 30-round magazines "done easily through a simple online purchase," she said.
"Every semi-automatic weapon used in the terrorist attack on Friday will be banned," she said.
New Zealand's Foreign Minister Winston Peters was also among the attendees of the meeting, who was in Turkey for, in his words, "substantial" talks. Expressing that his country places great importance on freedom of religious belief, Peters called attacks on Muslims "attacks on all of us."
The biggest police investigation in New Zealand's history was launched in the wake of the attacks, Peters said and ensured that the terrorist responsible will spend the rest of his life alone in a cell.
Previously, on Wednesday, Erdoğan said the terrorist will be held accountable for his crimes "one way or another."
"You will pay for this. If New Zealand doesn't do so, one way or another we will make you pay," said Erdoğan, following reports claiming that the terrorist might get away with his crimes.
Various media outlets reported yesterday that Tarrant may avoid terrorism charges and instead face multiple murder charges over last week's massacre. The reports claimed that terrorism laws in New Zealand require an act to be done for political or ideological reasons, and intended to induce terror in a civilian population in order for it to be considered a terrorist act.
The reports drew immediate criticism from many, who claim that such a move may overshadow the underlying ideologies behind the shooting, racism and xenophobia, and instead portray it as just another crime of murder. "This isn't an individual act, this is organized," said Erdoğan during his speech about the attack. Tarrant is scheduled to appear in court on April 5. "Ensuring Muslim communities in New Zealand feel safe and secure is a particular focus," Peters further underlined.
After the meeting, President Erdoğan came together with Foreign Minister Peters. Responding to the reporters' questions after their meeting, Peters said that the two countries have overcome mutual misunderstandings.
"The OIC will not stand idle in the face of Islamophobic attacks," said the Turkish foreign minister during the meeting, vowing to take a stand "against all this hate speech, violence, and terrorism with both our speech and practical steps."
No religion or belief can be defined by violence and terror, Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu said, adding that peace is "at the heart of Islam."
For his part, OIC Secretary-General Yousef Al-Othaimeen urged action to stem anti-Muslim hate speech, saying terror has no language, religion or race.
Al-Othaimeen called last week's deadly attacks in New Zealand a "turning point" for Muslims, adding that they will not be deterred from taking steps to curb violence.
The OIC secretary-general also said March 15 should be recognized international solidarity day against anti-Muslim sentiment.
Following the meeting, a statement was released by the IOC, saying that violence driven by anti-Muslim ideologies requires "genuine, comprehensive and systematic measures to address this affliction."
The OIC said attacks against mosques and murders of Muslims showed the "brutal, inhumane and horrific outcomes" of the hatred of Islam.
It called for countries with Muslim communities, minorities and migrants to refrain from "statements and practices that associate Islam with terror, extremism and threats" to society.
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