RISING ISLAMOPHOBIA blamed for hate crimes against Turks in Europe

Who cares? Let them go back to Turkey where they belong.

The violent deaths of two Turkish citizens in Belgium and three others in the Netherlands earlier this month have stirred up controversy among the Turkish public, which feels that anti-Turkish and anti-Muslim hate crimes have started to take a toll on their countrymen in Europe.

Arzu Erbaş Çakmakçı, 33, was stabbed to death on Aug. 11 in Amsterdam by an unknown assailant outside the daycare center she owned. Although the motive for her murder remains a mystery, it is suspected that it could have been a xenophobic attack. In the same city, another Turkish citizen, 30-year-old Ufuk Kayakuşu, who owned a cleaning company, was found stabbed to death in his home on Aug. 14.

The death of a Turkish citizen, Mikail Tekin, 31, in Belgium’s Jamioulx Prison on Aug. 8, apparently after being subjected to torture as indicated in his autopsy report, sparked outcry among the Turkish public, prompting a diplomatic protest by Ankara to Belgian officials. Tekin had originally been detained after a brawl with traffic police.

In another Belgian city, Gent, Turkish citizen Mustafa Çiçek, 32, was shot to death in his home after returning from a vacation with his wife in Turkey. The couple was attacked by two masked man.

These crimes are still being investigated by the authorities to determine whether they qualify as hate crimes; the verdict is still pending. Though some of them may be ordinary crimes, the news has caused public outrage and put pressure on Turkish officials to act on it.

Recep Karagöz, the deputy secretary-general of the Association of Human Rights and Solidarity for Oppressed Peoples (MAZLUM-DER) sees an increasing trend of xenophobic and hate crimes across Europe. “The anti-Muslim rhetoric taken up by government officials in some countries has fueled these incidents, and they are the ones who should take the blame for them,” he told Sunday’s Zaman.

Karagöz explained that most hate crimes in Europe have nothing to do with ethnicity, but rather these crimes target Muslims. (Yes, indeed! And not a moment too soon) “If you look at Germany, the bulk of Muslims are Turks, so it was natural for them to carry a bull’s eye on their backs. When you cross the border over to France, the target will be immigrants from North Africa. Though the ethnicity changes, they share the common trait of being Muslim,” he noted.

Hopefully it will get worse and the Muslims will leave Europe.

The rise in hate crimes targeting Muslims is becoming a concern for many international human right groups as well. The US-based Human Rights First (HRF), which closely monitors hate crimes and discrimination, underlines that attacks on Muslims and those who are perceived as Muslims are sharply increasing. In recent reports, the HRF pointed out that governments are not doing enough to address the problem and in some cases use anti-Muslim rhetoric to capitalize on the overall climate of fear and misunderstanding of Muslims and Islam. TODAYS ZAMAN