Islamophobia on the rise in Europe, says Erdoğan

Islamophobia is spreading rapidly, particularly in Europe, posing a threat to Muslims living on the continent, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said on Tuesday.

Tens of millions of Turks living in Europe are in constant danger of falling victim to hate crimes, state-run Anadolu news agency cited the Turkish president as saying.

“The Islamophobia virus, as dangerous as the coronavirus, is spreading rapidly, especially in European countries,” Erdoğan said. “Europe, where 35 million Muslims live today, including 6 million Turks, is increasingly turning into an open-air prison for our brothers and sisters.”

Erdoğan has previously voiced criticism of France and Austria for pushing the idea of a European Islam on their Muslim populations.

Last month, the French Senate voted to outlaw the Muslim headscarf for minors in public as part of the country’s “anti separatism’ bill’,’ which aims to crack down on extremist tendencies following a string of terrorist attacks last year.

In 2019, Austria banned the hijab in schools for children up to ten years of age, a ruling that was lifted by a top court, citing discrimination. 

The country also tried to impose a bill similar to France, which targeted  “political Islam", but the Austrian government revised the law following a backlash from the public.

Western governments have turned a blind eye to attacks on Muslims' sacred values, which are being carried out under the guise of freedom of expression, Erdoğan said.

One in three Austrians do not want to have Muslim neighbours, according to the 2019 Religion Monitor conducted for the German Bertelsmann Stiftung Foundation. The survey found that about 60 percent of respondents think Islam is incompatible with the West in countries like Spain and France.

Erdoğan last year blasted his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron for cracking down on radical Islam. Erdoğan said Macron was in need of "treatment on a mental level", sparking a diplomatic row.

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