The Ankara-based Foundation for Political, Economic and Social Research (SETA) organized a panel on Monday and presented the “European Islamophobia Report 2015” with the participation of presidential spokesman İbrahim Kalın. It was underlined that Islamophobia is a poison that intoxicates relations between Islam and the West. The report was prepared by 37 prominent scholars from 25 countries and drew attention to the growing sentiment of anti-Islamism following the deadly terror attacks in Paris. SETA Director Burhanettin Duran made the opening remarks and said that Islamophobia must be counted as a crime. The other panelists; Anna-Esther Younes from Humboldt University of Berlin; Olivier Esteves from Lille University and the co-editor of the report, Farid Hafez, from the University of Salzburg all said that Islamophobia must be considered as a crime.

Following Duran’s opening remarks Kalın said that the newly published report is to fill an important void on issues related to Islamophobia. He said that the report provides important advice to politicians and civil society organizations. Kalın said: “I believe that this report will significantly contribute to the issues of Islamophobia, anti-Muslimism, hate crimes and racism.” He said it seems impossible to completely eliminate the concept of one against another and that the most important factor is establishing a healthy and authentic relation between different groups. Kalın further criticized the West for its position on Islamophobia and said: “While it speaks of pluralism, multiculturalism and cosmopolitanism, the West’s rhetoric on multiculturalism becomes narrow and the borders begin to regress in the case of Islam and Muslims.” He said that terrorist organizations like DAESH and al-Qaida generate materials for Islamophobia and that these terrorist organizations feed through Islamophobia. Kalın stressed that through terrorist organizations and Islamophobic remarks, Muslim communities get attacked and victimized twice. “Islamophobia is not only a poison that intoxicates Islam and Western relations, it is also a new form of racism. It also toughens coexistence, in fact making it impossible at times, thus it must be determinately tackled and eliminated,” Kalın said. He urged jurists to determine and assess whether current legal amendments regarding basic racism and discrimination are sufficient to tackle Islamophobia and said that the “media, judiciary and NGOs have very crucial roles to manage positive perception. All initiatives should work together for a better future.”

Also speaking on the panel, Younes, who wrote a report on Islamophobia in Germany, said Islamophobia displays a great effect concerning refugees. “According to the statistics obtained, we have observed a serious and concerning lean towards Islamophobia [in Germany],” Younes said. In the report, Younes said: “The most concerning aspects about the most recent developments of Islamophobia is the continuing absence of reliable and nationwide data on Islamophobic incidents.” She emphasized the necessity of all sects of Europe to combat Islamophobia. Esteves said: “In Europe and France Islamophobia raised after the Charlie Hebdo attack under the name of racism and discrimination within religions and genders.” Esteves said that many media outlets that publish Islamophobic material have been made the highest-sellers list and that following the Charlıe Hebdo massacre the majority of Islamophobic attacks were made against women. Providing details from the report, Esteves said the most striking finding was not that assaults on Muslims and mosques and Islamophobic discourse more generally skyrocketed after both the Charlie Hebdo and Bataclan attacks, but that Muslim men have serious trouble finding jobs due to racism and discrimination.

The co-editor and final panelist Hafez drewg attention to the difficulty of obtaining secure and reliable information on Islamophobia and added that Islamophobia or racism against Muslims has still not been very much accepted in Europe.