Turkey’s Erdogan Meets Pope to Talk ‘Rising Islamophobia in the West’

“We will discuss… rising Islamophobia and cultural racism in the West.”

Turkish President Recep Erdogan met with Pope Francis on Monday to discuss the “rising Islamophobia and cultural racism in the West,” Turkish media report.

Pope Francis and Erdogan agreed on “joint efforts against Islamophobia,” Turkey’s state-run news agency Anadolu claimed. Both leaders also concurred that “equating Islam with terror [was] wrong,” Turkish news agency added.

“We will discuss Palestine, Jerusalem, Syria, Iraq, the fight against terrorism, the problems of refugees, humanitarian aid and the fight against rising Islamophobia and cultural racism in the West,” Erdogan told reporters on Sunday before heading for Rome, the first Vatican visit by a Turkish President in nearly 60 years.

Erdogan, an ardent Islamist, is also leading a diplomatic campaign to challenge U.S. President Trump’s decision to formally recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. Erdogan sought papal support for his efforts during the visit.

“The Turkish president has found common ground with the Vatican on the status of Jerusalem after the US recognized the city as Israel's capital,” wrote the German public broadcaster Deutsche Welle while covering Erdogan’s visit:

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan met with Pope Francis on Monday, the first Vatican visit by a Turkish head of state since 1959.

Despite previous clashes, the two leaders found common ground on Jerusalem after the US unilaterally recognized the city as the capital of Israel.

"The status of Jerusalem is a central issue for both Muslims and Christians; both the pope and myself are committed to protecting the status quo," said Erdogan in an interview published by Italian newspaper La Stampa on Sunday.

"No nation in the world has a right to take unilateral steps on a city which is dear to billions of people, ignoring international laws."

Pope Francis and Erdogan were also expected to discuss terrorism, the migration crisis and Syria, where Turkey last month launched an offensive against Kurdish forces in Afrin near the Turkish border. (…)

On Sunday, Erdogan criticized European leaders for blocking Turkey's attempt to join the EU. The Turkish president's office also said Erdogan would discuss Islamophobia with the pope.

Turkey underwent a process of secularization in the early part of the nineteenth century under the rule of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, the founder of the modern state of Turkey. The Muslim-majority country is now witnessing rapid Islamization since Erdogan and his pro-Islamic Justice and Development Party (AKP) took power fifteen years ago.

While complaining about the factious ‘rise of Islamophobia’ and ‘cultural racism’ in Europe, the continent that accepted millions of migrants from Arab and Muslim countries since the Migrant Crisis began in 2015, Turkey’s Erdogan forgets his own dismal record when it comes to dealing with Christians and other minorities in his country. The Erdogan regime has a history of seizing historic Christian churches and turning them into mosques or declaring them ‘state property.’ The country’s Sharia-inspired laws prohibit construction of new churches. The Orthodox Church, for example, is forbidden from training new priests. Turkey, once a cradle of early Christianity, has been almost entirely Islamized after five centuries of Islamic conquest and rule.

Erdogan, apparently, has similar plan for Europe. Turks “are the future of Europe,” Erdogan said at a rally in March 2017. “I am calling out to my citizens, my brothers and sisters in Europe. Have not just three but five children.”

It would be far more prudent for the Vatican to defend Christian Europe against the threat posed by Islamists like Erdogan than to support the latter's agenda through “joint efforts against Islamophobia.”