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Turks Hold 'Anti-Islamophobia' Events in U.S. While Detaining U.S. Pastor in Turkey

Turkey’s Dogan Holding held two international events on October 20 in Washington, D.C., reported the Dogan News Agency (DHA), “in a bid to globally fight against the fallacies and prejudices directed toward Islam.”

A panel titled “Islamophobia: Overcoming Myths and Engaging in a Better Conversation” was organized in cooperation with the U.S.-based Atlantic Council think tank and the Smithsonian Institution.

Also, the opening gala of the exhibition -- titled “The Art of the Qur’an: Treasures from the Museum of Turkish and Islamic Arts” -- was held on October 19 at the Sackler Gallery of the Smithsonian.

Marking a first in the U.S., centuries-old Qur’ans taken from the Turkish and Islamic Arts Museum in Istanbul are being shown at the exhibition, which is being sponsored by the Turkish Culture and Tourism Ministry, Koc Holding, Dogan Group, and Turkish Airlines. The exhibition will be open through February 20, 2017.

While the Turkish government and Turkish organizations are striving so hard to “fight against Islamophobia,” religious minorities and even non-observant Muslims in Turkey are continually exposed to discrimination, physical violence, as well as unlawful detentions and deportations.

The latest Christian victims are Rev. Andrew Brunson and his wife Norine. The pastor of the Resurrection Church in the city of Izmir, and his wife were detained on October 7.

Norine was released on October 20. She is allowed to stay in Turkey only until November 12, when her residence permit will expire. However, Turkish authorities are still holding her husband in isolation in an Izmir detention facility on the grounds that he is “a national security threat to Turkey.” The couple has resided in Turkey for the past 20 years.

Rev. Brunson has been refused contact with lawyers since he was detained.

Officials from the U.S. Embassy in Ankara went to Izmir to see Brunson, but they were prevented by Turkish authorities from contacting the pastor.

“The authorities forced Pastor Andrew to sign a document that says that he does not want to see U.S. officials from the U.S. Embassy in Turkey, but he refused to do so,” said a pastor from Izmir. “Only his wife has been allowed to see the pastor after her release so far and she saw him twice.

“When he was first detained,” added the pastor, “we asked the police officials not to put him in the same cell with Islamic State suspects. He was then put in the removal center for foreigners in Izmir. And the center is like a half-prison.”

The pastor added that a Turkish MP was informed by authorities, off the record, that “they have a scheme of a terror organization, in which Brunson is also involved."

“After his lawyers objected to his detention,” added the pastor, “they were also told by the local migration management officials that the pastor is accused of ‘being a member of a terror organization.’”

Seyfi Genc, the Turkish journalist who first reported the detention of the couple, said that he is very concerned about the recent developments in the country.

“American-hatred and Jew-hatred are intensely promoted in Turkey,” said Genc. “Pro-government TV channels are filled with debate programs in which analysts repeat every day that behind everything bad is America. This paves the way for the targeting of Christian citizens. Christians are terrorized because they are labeled by both the government and the media as the ‘secret agents’ of the United States, Britain or Israel.”

Genc added that these developments have escalated following the July 15 coup attempt.

“All other pastors who have recently been deported are also U.S. citizens. It seems that the deportation of American pastors from Turkey is retaliation by the Turkish government for the U.S. government not extraditing Fethullah Gulen,” whom the Turkish government accuses of being behind the abortive coup.

“I know this is so illogical, but Turkey can even see its own Christian citizens as hostages,” said Genc. “Turkey demands other countries give their Muslim citizens new rights but Turkey itself does not give its own Christian citizens their legal rights.”

Genc, who works for the Turkish Christian news channel SAT-7 TURK, which covers Christian-related news, added that it is difficult to cover stories about Christians in Turkey “as pastors often avoid making statements about rights violations. They think that their comments could be interpreted as ‘political.’”

There are only about 10,000 Protestant Christians in Turkey.

But, they have been exposed to discrimination and persecution for a long time, reported the Gatestone Institute. Protestants in Turkey are not recognized as an official religious community and are subjected to hate crimes, and physical and verbal assaults.

Not only Protestant Christians, but all non-Muslims in Turkey are continually under the threat of physical violence. Insulting and verbally attacking or unlawfully detaining or deporting them also seems perfectly fine.

So instead of spreading misinformation about Islam and attempting to stifle free speech under the guise of the so- called “threat of Islamophobia”, why do these Turkish and other Muslim community leaders not struggle against the widespread and systematic intolerance and aggression against non-Muslims all across the Muslim world?

These Turkish leaders, or businesspeople, go to the U.S. and try to paint a “perfect picture” of  Islam when the majority-Muslim countries are guilty of the worst cases of discrimination against and persecution of non-Muslims or secular Muslims.

Would the organizers of these events and exhibitions also be interested in presenting the guests with the accurate English translations of the Quranic verses and the Hadith concerning jihad, non-Muslims, women, and homosexuals?

Apparently not.