A Muslim cannot be a terrorist and Islam does not produce terrorists, the Turkish president said on Thursday, once again rejecting the term “Islamic terrorism”.
Recep Tayyip Erdogan said racism, discrimination and Islamophobia have spread like poison ivy in countries once seen as cradles of democracy.
Erdogan’s remarks came at the inauguration ceremony of the Cambridge Central Mosque which he attended with first lady Emine Erdogan and a group of high-level Turkish officials.
He traveled to Cambridgeshire to attend the ceremony from London, where he had arrived earlier this week to attend the NATO leaders’ summit.
Erdogan said workplaces, homes and places of worships of Muslims and foreigners are targeted by racists and fascist almost every day.
“Muslim women are abused only because they are wearing headscarves” in Islamophobic attacks, Erdogan said, adding Jewish, black people and whoever looks different are targeted in similar attacks.
Especially attacks targeting places of worships have reached “incredible dimensions,” he added, recalling the mosque attack in New Zealand, church attacks in Sri Lanka and synagogues in the U.S.
He said: “Hundreds of innocent people… were killed and tens of them were wounded in those attacks.”
“If places of worship are burned, bombed and civilians are killed violently there, it means that alarm bells are ringing for humanity.”
As Turkey, we have said terrorism is a common enemy of all, he added.
“You cannot bring the words terror and Islam together. If you keep doing it, then we are condemning those who do it,” he added.
A Muslim cannot be a terrorist; Islam does not produce terrorists, Erdogan underlined.
“We do not accept the Islamic terrorism etiquette, [a term] some insistently try to keep popular.”
Erdogan said Turkey has been fighting Daesh/ISIS more effectively than any other country, noting that 3,000 terrorists were neutralized only in Syria’a Al Bab town.
Erdogan said he rejects any distinction of “good or bad” terrorist and all terrorists of Daesh, FETO, PKK/YPG, even Neo-Nazis are "bloodthirsty vampires".
Cambridge Central Mosque
Speaking about Europe’s first eco-friendly mosque built in Cambridge, Erdogan said the mosque will be the “best response to rising Islamophobia".
“I believe this mosque, which has become the symbol of solidarity against discrimination from the first moment, will, God willing, continue to be the center of unity, conversation and peace in the future,” he said.
The ceremony opened with Quranic recitation from mosque imam Sejid Mekic.
Also attending the ceremony, British singer Yusuf Islam said the Cambridge Central Mosque will promote understanding.
Underlining that he became Muslim more than 40 years ago and his conversion was a “spiritual step forward", Islam thanked the Turkish president and Turkey's Religious Affairs Directorate for assistance in building the mosque.
“We are not only opening a mosque in Cambridge but presenting a work that rejects contradiction,” head of Religious Affairs Directorate Ali Erbas said in his speech.
The road to building Europe’s first eco-friendly mosque began back in 2008, when the capacity of local churches and houses was unable to meet the worship needs of local Muslims.
Muslim students in the city turned to one of Britain’s most influential Muslims Timothy Winter, also known as Shaykh Abdal Hakim Murad, the dean of the Cambridge Muslim College, who was instrumental in getting the land for the new mosque.
More than 10,000 people and groups donated money for the landmark purchase, with Turkish groups donating most generously. The Qatar National Fund also was among the donors.
Support from Erdogan
Abdal Hakim Murad, together with Islam (also known as Cat Stevens), sought support for the project from Erdogan, who was then Turkey’s prime minister.
In the project, Islam’s aesthetics and the Prophet Muhammad’s life and the importance he placed on protecting nature were used as an inspiration.
A competition helped determine the mosque’s design, which includes a garden, portico, yard, lavatory, prayer room, and bathing cubicle.
The design of the mosque's garden, where some 1,000 people can pray at the same time, pays respect to Islamic traditions, and making the mosque building eco-friendly was a priority.
Besides using natural materials such as wood and marble, the mosque is already famed for its zero-carbon footprint.