The Turkish prime minister has cautioned Europeans not to let a mutual lack of respect between cultures and religions harden. The clash of civilisations, he said, throws world peace into doubt.
The leader of the moderate Islamic AKP party was speaking at the Council of Europe’s Parliamentary Assembly. In Strasbourg, Recep Tayyip Erdogan said: “To begin with, we must respect each other’s sensitivities. Yes to criticism, no to insult. Incitement to hatred breeds violence.” He added: “We see Islamophobia – like Anti-Semitism – as a crime against humanity,” and he invited Europeans to react.
Officially secular Turkey, whose population of some 70 million is mostly Muslim, is a historical crossroad of cultures. Public opinion in Europe has brought pressure on EU leaders to reconsider the bloc’s capacity to integrate such a large country in possible future enlargements.
Its EU membership candidacy was finally achieved in 1999, the adhesion talks starting the same day as Croatia, last October. The process is expected to stretch over at least a decade, with many Europeans calling for an outcome of less than full membership.