The American Israel Public Affairs Committee conference begins Sunday in Washington, with Vice President Joe Biden speaking Monday and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaking via satellite.
While the key topics among attendees are expected to be Iran’s nuclear program and opinion over the appointment of Chuck Hagel as Defense secretary, Turkey’s prime minister just earned his Islamist government in the secular republic a spot in the talking points.
Recep Tayyip Erdoğan was speaking at the Fifth Alliance of Civilizations Forum, a UN event in Vienna’s Hofburg Palace, on the rising trend of fascism across the Europe, according to Anatolia News Agency.
“Aside from countries indifferent to Muslim countries, disrespectful attitudes toward Muslims living in certain countries continue to hurt consciences,” said Erdoğan.
“Just like Zionism, anti-Semitism and fascism, it becomes unavoidable that Islamophobia must be regarded as a crime against humanity,” he said.
Erdoğan slammed “certain politicians’ defamation of a religion or a sect by mass communication tools” for deepening gaps between cultures.
The prime minister also defended the Islamist rebels who have terrorized residents of Mali by forcibly trying to impose Sharia law on towns like Timbuktu, which suffered under occupation for 10 months before liberation by French forces.
“If we evaluate the current developments in Mali as if they were based on religion, it would be a historic mistake,” Erdoğan said. “Members of different religions in Mali are not fighting against each other. There could be acts of terrorism in Mali but to define such violence as part of a religion would not be correct since no monotheistic religion encourages terrorism. Islam means ‘peace.’ We can never accept arguments that a religion of peace, Islam, encourages or approves terrorism.”
Turkish opposition leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu, chairman of the Republican People’s party, warned earlier this month that Erdoğan is determined to upend the country and plunge the republic into constitutional crisis because of his lust for power.
“The prime minister is more and more authoritarian, unfortunately,” Kilicdaroglu said. “The sovereignty of fear is ubiquitous. No one can talk with ease on the telephone. Civil society is under pressure. The universities cannot express their view. The labour unions are completely silent. The media are fearful.
“There is not one single dissenting voice within his own party. The attempt to create an executive presidency is all about the concentration of power in a single hand. It will be a disaster for Turkey. It will cancel all the democratic gains Turkey has made.”
The Turkish Republicans are the next largest party in the Grand National Assembly after the Islamist AKP (Justice and Development Party). Erdogan is running for president in 2014, but so far has 41 percent support in the polls with no confirmed challenger.