Turkey President Erdogan Speaks Out For American Muslims

Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Saturday formally opened the Diyanet Center of America, a Turkey-funded $100m Islamic cultural center in Lanham, Maryland. A 20,200-square-foot mosque forms part of the cultural center, whose opening was witnessed by thousands of American Muslims and Turkish immigrants from around Washington and beyond.

Recognizing the significance of the moment, President Erdogan pointedly referred to the anti-Islam rhetoric from some in the Republican campaign, noting that:

“Unfortunately, we are going through a rough time all around the world. Intolerance towards Muslims is on the rise not only here in the United States but also around the globe.”

President Erdogan was in the US to attend the Nuclear Security Summit in Washington. He denounced prejudice against American Muslims, and stated that American Muslims should not be made to choose between being a Muslim and being an American.

The center, which also includes a library, recreational center, auditorium, and conference rooms, will serve both Muslims and non-Muslims, as Mr. Ahmet Aydilek, the center’s general secretary, indicated:

“Everyone said we should think about a community centre that would serve not only Muslims but also non-Muslims, and that would host interfaith and intercultural activities.”

Although formally opened on Saturday, the center has been open for about a year. It has become a symbol of peaceful co-existence among local interfaith communities in Lanham, a perfect riposte to GOP anti-Muslim campaign talk by Donald Trump and Ted Cruz. It shows that it is possible to view American Muslims without casting a shadow of terrorism on them.

Hopefully, the immense symbolism of an Islamic cultural center close the nation’s capital, peaceful and without terrorist incident, will not be lost on the GOP hopefuls. Instead of spreading Islamophobia, they should take a moment and view this center, for instance, as a possible microcosm of embracing multiculturalism in America.


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Juma Ali is a freelance writer based in South Africa. He has a Bachelor's degree in Political Science and has a keen eye for politics, international affairs, and literary fiction.