Islamophobia conference kicks off in Istanbul

Mehmet Gormez, former head of Turkey’s Religious Affairs Directorate, also speaks at international conference

Handan Kazancı   | 07.04.2018
Islamophobia conference kicks off in Istanbul


By Handan Kazanci


A conference on Islamophobia began in Istanbul on Friday to discuss strategies and policies for combatting Islamophobia.

The three-day conference, hosted by the Center for Islam and Global Affairs at Istanbul’s Sabahattin Zaim University, has the theme “Contextualizing Islamophobia: Its Impact on Culture and Global Politics.”

Mehmet Gormez, the former head of Turkey’s Religious Affairs Directorate, spoke at conference on the role of Muslim scholars and combatting Islamophobia.    

“We need to have a way of thinking around how we understand the phenomenon of Islamophobia,” said Salman Sayyid of the University of Leeds, co-editor of the book Thinking Through Islamophobia: Global Perspectives.

“Conceptually rather than simply drawing various kinds of lists all the time, arguing about the definitions.” 

‘Islamophobia changing ties between citizens, state’   

Sayyid also spoke Anadolu Agency that for a long time people thought that Islamophobia only meant mistreatment of Muslim minorities.  

“Therefore if you aren’t a Muslim minority, you didn’t really care that much. It didn’t affect anything,” Sayyid said.  


Salman Sayyid of the University of Leeds 

“What we are seeing in Europe and North America but I would say throughout the world now is Islamophobia is becoming a means of changing the relationship between citizens and their governments,” he added.  

Sayyid is in Istanbul to take part in a three-day conference on Islamophobia at Istanbul’s Sabahattin Zaim University.  

A rising wave of Islamophobia has taken hold in Europe, according to a report released this month by Ankara-based Foundation for Political, Economic and Social Research (SETA).  

The European Islamophobia Report (EIR) revealed 908 crimes, ranging from verbal and physical attacks to murder attempts, targeting Muslims in Germany, as well as 664 in Poland, 364 in the Netherlands, 256 in Austria, 121 in France, 56 in Denmark, and 36 in Belgium.  

According to Sayyid, Islamophobia no longer affects minorities alone.  

“It is actually changing how the state thinks of itself,” he said, citing U.S. President Donald Trump’s travel ban on Muslims.  

“What Trump has done is based on legislation which was already implemented by [his predecessor Barack] Obama,” he said.  

Sayyid said that a lot of people are seeing Islamophobia “more like the falling of the masks rather than a new reality.”  

“The more kind of worrying aspect is Islamophobia is no longer restricted to where there are Muslim minorities. It is a global discourse, a global phenomenon,” he said.  

“So you have countries like for example Angola, where there are hardly any Muslims, trying to close down mosques,” he added. 

Featuring scholars from Turkey as well as worldwide, the conference focuses on Islamophobia on culture, society, politics, and international relations. 

The conference is intended to spur a discussion of “strategies and policies that need to be adopted and pursued to end or reduce the harmful and detrimental effects of Islamophobia,” according to the university’s website. 

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