By Fatima Abushanab
28 March 2017
Last week on the anniversary marking the 60th Year of the Treatise of Rome, Pope Francis called upon European leaders to take heed of their past blunders. It has become exceedingly clear that the rise of extreme right-wing populism has succeeded in turning anti-immigrant rhetoric into policies that are detrimental to the foundation of Europe as an advanced union. Constant European bragging about human rights and free speech is being dangerously undermined with the persistent rise of Islamophobia.
Today, we cannot discuss the West and the Muslim world without considering the relationship between Turkey and Europe. Identified as the "sick man of Europe" at the turn of the century, Turkey has now entered a phase of extensive development. With the potential to upgrade Turkey's governance to a presidential system, the upcoming Turkish referendum has, interestingly, become a subject of immediate concern for Europeans. Why? Is it because an empowered democratic nation with a stable presidential system will be in competition with other democracies? If this is the case, then there is more to the story. As an advancing Muslim democracy, Turkey is the only key actor that can eliminate the rising threats to a peaceful Europe — a fact that must not be ignored.
Rather than finding ways to repair their relations with Turkey, Europeans have been spreading discord to hinder the strengthening relations, resulting in ongoing discrimination, prejudice and hatred.
However, Europeans must accept the fact that Islam can no longer be confined to the East — the Syrian refugee crisis being a definitive reminder of this reality. Throughout the process, Europe — which struggles to hold onto a strictly secular, Christian persona — will have to transform itself into a union of states that accommodate diversity of religion, culture and even language. In the face of these changes, Europe will have to reckon and come to terms with the kind of diversity that has been embraced in the U.S.
The influx of immigrants, however, is not the only problem brewing in European politics. Terror continues to loom from the East to the West, as seen in the recent tragedy in London.
The increasing Muslim presence across Europe has become a phenomenon that will likely escalate the issue of terrorism, along with rising Islamophobic sentiments emanating from politics. In order to tackle the increasing number of terror attacks by so-called Muslims, it is essential to create sustainable, strong partnerships between Muslim political leaders and Western leaders to rid both the Islamic and Western world of the cancer that is terror.
The people who will save Europe from the modern-day disease of terrorism must include the leaders of the Muslim world — especially Turkey — in major roles in this critical fight. Without the cooperation of the group that truly represents the real faith of peace, conciliation and generosity, our terror-stricken nations will continue to struggle to escape the vicious cycle of violence.
Accordingly, if we are going to devote ourselves in a mutual counterterrorism fight, the discrimination must cease. European ally leaders' disdainful comments, their leniency towards terror organizations and the outright discrimination against Muslim women with headscarves are some of the major issues that need to be urgently addressed.
If these issues are not solved, we will continue to watch in shock as the civilized, modern Europe of our academic textbooks destroys the pillars of "free values" it was founded on. In this case, Europe is certainly setting a bad example by bullying Turkey with unabated bigotry. However, the issue is much larger than Europe's attack on Turkey and Muslims in Europe.
The tension escalating between Turkey and Europe is an issue that represents a much larger conflict, exemplifying the tenuous relationship between the Muslim world and the Western world. Despite how detrimental dichotomies can be, Europe's political leadership continues to demonstrate very poor judgement in this esteem.
The demonization of Turkey, the terrible treatment of immigrants and the Islamophobic slurs of European leaders all signal the abandonment of a crucial Christian value: Brotherhood. In fact, Jesus never mistreated or looked at anyone with contempt. Instead, he loved and embraced everyone despite their differences and always stood by his followers offering protection to the weak and persecuted.
Now, the danger we face from our European friends' attitudes is developing into a great catastrophe. Therefore, more than ever, we have to be mindful of the need for positive dialogue to create an environment of coexistence based on respect, love and understanding.
This is exactly what Jesus would expect from Europeans today.