BRUSSELS – Criticizing rising hostility against Muslims and their religion in the European continent, Turkey’s minister to the European Union said that Islam has become a reality in Europe, calling on Europeans to better understand the peaceful Islamic tenets.
“It is Islamophobia rather than Islam that is visible in France and across Europe,” EU Minister Egemen Bagis was quoted as saying by Hurriyet Daily News.
He was responding to statements by far-right French politician Marine Le Pen that Islam was more visible in France than before.
Le Pen also reiterated rejection to the accession of Muslim-majority Turkey’s to the EU
But the Turkish minister rejected the statements, saying that Islam has become a reality in Europe.
“We know Ms. Le Pen’s statements on Turkey and our values but we don’t care too much."
Muslims are estimated to account for 8 to 9 percent of the population in the EU member-states.
Far-right politicians across Europe have accelerated their rhetoric against Muslim minorities in Europe in recent years.
In France, Le Pen’s party has accelerated rhetoric against Muslim immigration, heaping problems in the European country as scarce jobs and housing problems on Muslims.
In 2010, Le Pen compared Muslim prayers on the streets to Nazi occupation.
In Germany, sentiments against Muslims have been on the rise, with a heated debate on the Muslim immigration into the country.
In the Netherlands, far-right Dutch lawmaker Wilders has called for banning the Muslim face-veil in the country and stopping immigration from Muslim countries.
In Sweden, the far-right Sweden Democrats have unveiled plans to impose a moratorium on building new mosques in the Scandinavian country.
The Turkish minister called on the Europeans to seek to understand the true teachings of Islam.
“It would be more beneficial if they tried to understand the real message of Islam: peace, brotherhood, sympathy,” Bagis said.
“The crisis that Europe is going through is a sign that they are not on the right track.”
Bagis also urged Europeans to defend their values and avoid using the issue of Turkey’s accession into the EU to gain votes.
“Ms. Le Pen does not need to have exploitation. Instead she should communicate with the French public. They should see that playing politics over Turkey is not working anymore.”
Turkey, a predominantly-Muslim but a secular country which straddles Europe and Asia, applied for EU's membership in 1959 and became an EU candidate in 1999.
But Ankara's half-century quest to join Europe's 27-country club has been dogged by problems since it was made an official candidate in October 2005.
France and Germany lead opposition to Turkey's membership in the European Union.
If negotiations succeed, Turkey would be the first major Muslim country to join the European bloc.Turkey has repeatedly aroused suspicions that some EU governments are trying to keep the door shut before it becoming an EU member because of doubts over letting a Muslim-dominated country join their “Christian club.”
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