Islamophobia offers no solution for the problems of either Europe or Asia, the continents straddled by Turkey, said the Turkish presidential spokesperson on Saturday.
“Islamophobia will solve neither Europe’s nor Asia’s problems. In the short term, it may serve narrow-minded populist agendas, but it in the long term, it could lead to more victimisation of minorities and ethnic and social upheaval,” Ibrahim Kalin wrote in an op-ed for Al Jazeera English.
He recalled an June trip meeting between Myanmar’s de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi and Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban.
In a statement after the meeting, calling migration the “greatest challenges” for both countries, the Hungarian government said: “Both regions have seen the emergence of the issue of coexistence with continuously growing Muslim populations.”
In response, Kalin wrote that actually Muslims are not the biggest problem of either country.
He said it is strange for them to express concern over “growing Muslim populations” as neither of them faces such a “problem.”
“But presenting them as a threat is a useful strategy to deflect attention from the real problems of social disintegration, economic stagnation, the rise of populism and far-right movements, the erosion of traditional values, the failure of mainstream politics and a host of other issues that have practically nothing to do with Muslim or other minority groups,” he added.
He noted that the Muslim population in Hungary is just around 5,000 and the government did not allow any refugees moving through the country to stay there.
Kalin also told how Myanmar expelled hundreds of thousands of Muslims from its northern Rakhine state, where it had had a “large Muslim community” for centuries.
“Long lauded as a proponent of human rights and civil liberties, Suu Kyi has stood up in defence of Myanmar’s military which has unleashed an unprecedented campaign of persecution against the Muslim-majority Rohingya,” Kalin wrote.
The Rohingya, described by the UN as the world’s most persecuted people, have faced heightened fears of attack since dozens were killed in communal violence in 2012.
According to Amnesty International, more than 750,000 Rohingya refugees, mostly women and children, fled Myanmar and crossed into Bangladesh after Myanmar forces launched a crackdown on the minority Muslim community in August 2017.
Kalin also said the Muslims who stayed in Myanmar still face the threat of violence and violations of their basic rights, but little has been done to stop the persecution.
Also touching on the civil war in Syria, he added that like the Rohingya issue, the Syrian issue has not been addressed properly.
“In 2015, eager to placate their angry electorates, European leaders pushed for a deal with Turkey to stem the flow of refugees into Europe, placing the burden on Turkish shoulders,” he said, noting that Turkey currently hosts 3.5 million Syrians, more than any country in the world.
“Since then, Syrians have continued to be killed at an alarming rate in the conflict, with hundreds of thousands displaced internally, sometimes multiple times, and many still trying to flee to safety and dying in the cold waters of the Mediterranean Sea,” Kalin wrote, adding that Europeans failed to put an end to the Syrian war as their primary concern is “Muslim” migration.
“Today there is concerted effort to instrumentalise Muslim communities within old-fashioned identity politics to stoke fear and justify conflict. Islam and Muslims are increasingly treated as the opposite of what both the secular and Judeo-Christian West supposedly stand for; they are the new common ‘enemy’. Thus, right-wing, left-wing, liberal, conservative, evangelical and other groups which normally argue over a thousand different issues on a daily basis, readily agree on this perceived Muslim ‘threat’,” he added.
“Some 150 years ago, Marx rightly said that the promise of freedom, equality and fraternity in Europe was dependent on the inclusion of Jews. Today, in Europe, Asia, and elsewhere, it is very much dependent on the acceptance of Muslims as equal human beings and fellow citizens.”