ANKARA: Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Tuesday warned the European Union it should crack down on “Islamophobia” amid rising anti-Muslim protests instead of trying to teach Turkey lessons about democracy.
Erdogan told Turkey's ambassadors posted abroad in a speech in Ankara that they should pursue an assertive foreign policy to represent strong and self-confident “new Turkey” under his rule.
In a new attack on the EU, Erdogan called on the 28-member bloc to “revisit its Turkey policy”, accusing Europe of dragging its feet on Ankara's decade-old membership bid.
“Believe me it is regrettable that the EU is trying teach a lesson to Turkey instead of trying to tackle very serious threats it is facing,” he said.
Erdogan said racist, discriminatory activities and Islamophobia were on the rise in Europe, complaining that racist organisations won sympathy in some Western societies with “each passing day”.
“The Islamophobia, which we constantly draw attention to and warn of, represents a serious threat in Europe."
“If the issue is not dealt with seriously today, and if populism takes European politicians captive, the EU and European values will come into question,” he said.
His comments came a day after controversial German group PEGIDA rallied thousands of people in Dresden for a demonstration against what it calls the “Islamisation of the Occident”.
Erdogan told the ambassadors Turkey needed to see itself as a great country, amid growing tensions with the EU over the crackdown on the opposition.
“Turkey is not a country which anyone can accuse by wagging their finger in big arrogance. Those who have such habits should abandon them,” he added.
“Those who shake their finger and reprimand Turkey must see that they are dealing with a new Turkey, big Turkey, with its economy, democracy and foreign policy."
'Stand firm against them'
Erdogan in August moved to the presidency after over a decade as prime minister in a period during which he worked to earn Turkey respect as a global Islamic power.
“You are the envoys of a big state, with its history, culture, civilisation and victory from the independence war,” Erdogan told the Turkish ambassadors, referring to the fight against occupying allied forces in the early 1920s.
He said that with a programme of reforms, the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) had been “tearing down that tight dress tailored for Turkey and its people, and getting rid of all the shackles one by one”.
But the president also warned the ambassadors to be “very careful” and “on alert” in the face of what he said was a campaign by Western media to portray Turkey as a country which “did not take its share from democracy”.
“They (Western media) are not honest, they are not sincere. They come sit and talk with us. We give them necessary answers. We show them documents but despite all this, they go their own way,” he said.
“Therefore, I am asking ambassadors to stand firm against them. You should hit all this immoral and false news in its face. You should not make any concession,” he added.
Erdogan's comments Tuesday coincided with the detention in southeastern Turkey of Dutch reporter Frederike Geerdink. She was released after several hours of questioning over tweets allegedly supporting a “terrorist group”.