Islam is the second-largest religion in Europe after Christianity, with self-identified Muslims making up over 5 percent of the EU’s population today, and their demographic footprint projected to grow to as much as 14 percent by 2050 amid migration and plummeting birth rates among Christian populations.
The world in general and Europe in particular is suffering from the “Islamophobia virus”, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has suggested.
“The virus of Islamophobia, which is as dangerous as the coronavirus, is spreading rapidly, especially in European countries,” Erdogan said in a speech this week, his remarks cited by local media.
The president added that Muslims, including millions of Turks, are in danger of hate crimes in current conditions. “Europe, where 35 million Muslims live today, including 6 million Turks, is increasingly turning into an open-air prison for our brothers and sisters,” he claimed, without elaborating on what he meant.
Erdogan suggested that the current security situation for Muslims was very “grim,” and that a “serious threat” to their safety exists in Europe.
The Turkish president went on to attack Western governments for their alleged disregard for Muslims’ religious values under the pretext of the freedom of expression, presumably referencing free speech laws allowing for the publication of potentially offensive images of the Prophet Mohammed.
He pointed in particular to France’s recent push for a new anti-extremism law, ostensibly aimed at reinforcing the country’s republican values of secularism, liberty, equality and fraternity. Under the new law, communities would be obliged to sign a charter under these national principles, and face limits in the amount of money their organisations can receive from abroad.
“Passing such a bill, which openly contradicts human rights, freedom of belief, and European values, will serve as a guillotine for French democracy,” Erdogan suggested, urging Paris to “act reasonably” and scrap the bill. He added that Turkey was prepared to work with France and other countries on “counterterrorism and integration” initiatives.
Erdogan has repeatedly attacked French President Macron over his anti-extremism drive, which began last year following the beheading death of a French schoolteacher who showed a cartoon of the Prophet Mohammed. The Turkish leader has questioned Macron’s mental health, advised him not to comment on matters pertaining to Islam, and accused him of intolerance regarding other faiths.
Last year, Erdogan also warned that Europe was “preparing its own end” with its “attacks” against Muslims, pointing to a police raid on a mosque in Germany over suspected terror financing. The Turkish president warned at the time that if the continent doesn’t rid itsemf of the “disease” of Islamophobia, “it will collapse all of Europe from within”.
Europe is home to millions of Muslims, with large populations existing historically in southeastern Europe, and in France and the UK since the colonial era. Additional Muslims from Turkey and the Arab World have made their way to Europe in several waves of migration in the latter half of the 20th century, and amid the refugee crisis of the mid-2010s stemming from the collapse of the security situation in many Middle Eastern countries, including Syria and Libya, due in part to Western military interventions.
A comprehensive Pew Research study from 2016 found that 25.7 million Muslims call Europe home, and estimated that Muslims would make up up to 14 percent of the continent’s population by 2050 if current trends of migrant inflow and demographic shifts continue. The report projected that Muslims could make up over 30 percent of the population of Sweden, nearly 20 percent of the population of Germany, and 18 percent of the population of France by 2050 (up from the current 8.1 percent, 6.1 percent and 8.8 percent, respectively, today).