Anti-Semitism rising along with anti-Islam in Europe: Turkey's ambassador to France

Anti-Semitism rising along with anti-Islam in Europe: Turkey's ambassador to France

Cansu Çamlıbel ANKARA
Anti-Semitism rising along with anti-Islam in Europe: Turkeys ambassador to France

Turkish Ambassador to Paris Hakkı Akil speaks with daily Hürriyet reporter Cansu Çamlıbel in Ankara, where he attended the 7th Ambassadors' Conference. Hürriyet Photo / Levent Kulu

With Turkish authorities constantly warning of Islamophobia, the Turkish Ambassador to Paris, Hakkı Akil, prefers not to single out anti-Islamism, but rather approached the issue as one of general anti-minority tendencies.

“Not just Islamophobia, anti-Semitism has also escalated in Europe lately. This racism and xenophobia in Western Europe is not something that only targets Muslims,” Akil told daily Hürriyet in an interview, linking the rise of these trends to the economic crisis and the strengthening of far-right political movements.

He also brushed off concerns over the security of Turks living in France, saying the Turkish community has generally avoided getting involved in any polarization, which saved it from becoming a target.
However, he stressed that this still does not mean Turkish society would not be subject to any attacks.

Akil also touched on the rise of extremist Islamist organizations in the Middle East, such as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant’s (ISIL), saying this was part of the “ideological void that emerged after the collapse of the Soviet Union.”

He suggested that religion has re-emerged as a political value after the collapse of the communist regime in Russia, leading to the creation of a new battlefield.

Ambassador Akil emphasized that this notion is not true only for Islam, and the rise of extremism can be observed within Christianity as well.

The ambassador also sought to stress that government officials’ stance regarding the recent incident includes no “buts” that might seek to justify the Islamist terrorist attacks.

While labeling the attacks on the Charlie Hebdo office as “terrorist attacks” with no hesitation, Turkish officials have also tended to emphasize the link they see between “terrorism and Islamophobia.”

However, Akil insisted that the president, the prime minister and the Foreign Ministry have all stressed that Turkey is against terrorism “without buts.”

“If you start to condemn terror with ‘but,’ you will head to a very slippery floor. Everybody would then find their own ‘but’ and there will no possibility left to be successful in the fight against international terrorism,” he said, adding that “there have been many parties that made these mistakes in the past.”

Turkey 'always at risk’

On the issue of rising security concerns, the envoy said terrorism risks have always been high for Turkey and the recent rise of extremism is not new to the country.

“While the risks have increased today, they have actually never ceased for Turkey,”  Akil said.

The envoy’s words came in response to a question over the Turkish national intelligence chief’s reported warning over “rising security threats” after the Paris attack.

Three days of terror that left 20 people, including three gunmen, dead and scores of others injured in France has highlighted the fears that jihadist militants step up their threats to Western countries.

Turkish National Intelligence Organization (MİT) Undersecretary Hakan Fidan was recently quoted as saying that the risks have escalated for both Turkey and the world over developments in Iraq and Syria, as well as the recent attack.

However, Akil downplayed such warnings, saying that Turkey has always faced these risks and is sufficiently experienced to fight against extremist organizations.

“Our country has been fighting against terrorism actively for 30 years. I don’t even know how many organizations we have fought against at the same time,” he said.