Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan yesterday called on the world to fight back against Islamophobia in the same way it responded to anti-Semitism after the Holocaust, following the deadly attacks on two New Zealand mosques.
The Turkish leader has presented the mosque attacks, by a self-avowed white supremacist who killed 50 people, as part of a wider assault on Islam and has demanded the West do more against anti-Muslim sentiment.
“Just as humanity fought against anti-Semitism after the Holocaust disaster, it should fight against rising Islamophobia in the same determined fashion,” Erdogan told an emergency meeting of ministers from the Organisation of Islamic Co-operation in Istanbul. “Right now we are facing Islamophobia and Muslim hatred,” he said.
In the March 15 attack in Christchurch, alleged gunman Brenton Tarrant killed 50 men, women and children – the victims aged between three and 77 years old – in a massacre that sparked global revulsion. He livestreamed much of the killing and spread a manifesto on social media claiming it was a strike against Muslim “invaders”. Representatives from the OIC, which groups Muslim countries, said in a statement that “genuine, comprehensive and systematic measures” were needed to tackle the “affliction” of Islamophobia.
They called on countries with Muslim communities and minorities to refrain from statements and actions that associate Islam with “terror, extremism and threats.”
In his hate-filled “manifesto” before the mass killing, the accused killer suggested neo-Nazi ideology and immigration prompted his action and mentioned other right-wing extremists.
He also referenced Turkey, and Istanbul’s landmark Hagia Sophia, that was once a church before becoming a mosque during the Ottoman empire and is now a museum.
New Zealand’s government yesterday reassured Muslims living in the country they would be “safe and secure” despite the deadly attacks in Christchurch. “Ensuring Muslim communities in New Zealand feel safe and secure is a particular focus,” New Zealand Foreign Minister Winston Peters told the OIC meeting.
Peters said New Zealand authorities would make sure “no stone stays unturned” in the prosecution of the attacker. “This person will face the full force of New Zealand law and spend the rest of his life in isolation in a New Zealand prison,” he said. Erdogan, campaigning for local elections this month, had angered New Zealand’s government by repeatedly showing the video made by the alleged gunman, an Australian who was arrested after the massacre.
Yesterday, Turkey’s Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu praised New Zealand authorities and their “sincere solidarity messages”. The Muslim call to prayer rang out across New Zealand yesterday followed by two minutes of silence nationwide to mark a week since the attack. Thousands of people — including Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern — stood silently in a park opposite the mosque where the killing began.
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