‘Turks are being seen as representatives of Muslims, We are back again’

International Conference on Islamophobia in Istanbul: Scholars, experts list recommendations for Governments, Media, NGOs, Educational Institutions, Society and Individuals

‘There may not be perfect democracy but many things have changed, it is more regularised now’

Istanbul: Recep Tayyib Erdogan led AK Party never identified as an Islamist party but in contemporary times, Turkey is being seen as a representative of Muslim world, said a member of ruling regime here on Sunday.

In her comments, during the final day of three-day international conference on Islamophobia, hosted by Centre for Islam and Global Affairs, at Istanbul Sabahattin Zaim University, vice-chair of AK Party, Dr Ravza Kavakci Kan, said, “AK Party was labelled as Islamist (but) we never identified ourselves as one… it is conservative-democratic but not in the context of US and Europe.”

Kan, who has a doctorate from Harvard University, said, “Turkey has become equivalent of Islam… we are back again… Turks are being seen as representatives of Muslims.”

On the state of Turkey under Erdogan, she said, “there may not be perfect democracy but many things have changed… it is more normal and regularised now.”

Kan, who is AK Party’s incharge for human rights as well, added, “a lot has changed as ‘others’ of state are now equal citizens and state is there to serve people.”

Kan was chairing a session as how Islamophobia is being used as foreign policy tool by states in West and Europe. “Today’s Turkey is more powerful and a mechanism is in place.”

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“When you hear any news about and from Turkey, kindly check its source; be objective and see the issue from the other side as well,” she stressed.

However, she said that there was no compromise on terrorism. “Who could support any activity like 9/11 and it is the same for Turkey,” she said about the massive crackdown on those associated with the failed coup of July 2016. “It is ironic when some people say whether the coup was real.”

“Turkey has a judicial system in place and those (detained for failed coup) will have to go through it,” she maintained.

Kan, who said she had no official statement on Oxford professor’s detention in France, said, “it is horrible what Tariq Ramadan is going through although we don’t agree on many things.”

The AK Party MP exclaimed as how Turkey was different from other countries. “Turkey hosts 3.5 million brothers and sisters from Syria and they are not immigrants and refugees but they are technically our guests.”

In the final session of the international moot on Islamophobia, the scholars and experts listed various recommendations for various agencies of states to counter the raging phenomenon and how to further co-existence among different communities.

The governments were asked to create opportunities for students from other faiths including Muslims. “They need ensure that law enforcement mechanism is in place to effectively counter Islamophobia, racism and discrimination.”

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The scholars said that governments need to train their officials who deal with Muslims. “There is a need for government money to fund groups who study Islamophobia but just not for PR stunts.”

The conference urged the Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC) to make Islamophobia a specific project to counter it.

“Muslims world has to undo the age of terrorism,” they stressed. “And there is a need of unity of like-minded states and groups to counter this challenge. Need to embrace academic freedom and remove the language of territories to make the world a better place to live.”

“Media creates and spreads narratives… there is a need that the dialogue in the media sphere be increased and polarity of media be reduced. It’s important to engage the ‘others’ in media,” they noted asking Muslim youth to engage in intense writings for different media.

They added that NGOs can pressure the producers of TV series drama, and opera to reflect upon “good image” of Islam.

“More Muslim presence in the fields of life including art, sports, social sciences will do good,” they said urging Muslim groups to create their own media organizations. “Public diplomacy is important but the public media is not being taken seriously.”

The Muslims community was advised to make friendly relations with international media agencies “to help in extending your effect”.

The experts said that the Islamophobes need to be “identified, named, exposed and shamed”. “The need of enhancing the sense of the social practice, focusing on countering the consequences of Islamophobia rather than blaming Muslims for the cause of this new phenomenon.”

They further said that there is a vital need to “enhance solidarity and equality among different communities”. “Create trans-cultural unities and entities as possible, especially through social media.”

“We need to understand as how to relate with the state and we need to start repairing the Muslim-state relations,” they stressed. “Then there comes lobbying within the states.”

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