Extremism and discrimination are on the rise in Europe, Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu warned in a speech at the opening of a Council of Europe meeting in İstanbul on Wednesday.
“Today, everyone agrees that xenophobia and populist parties are gaining ground. Extremism and discrimination are major threats against our societies,” Davutoğlu said while inaugurating the 121st meeting of the Committee of Ministers of the 47-nation Council of Europe at İstanbul's Çırağan Palace. Representatives from 47 member states as well as five countries with observer status at the Council of Europe and senior Council of Europe officials are attending the meeting.
Davutoğlu referred to a report by a Council of Europe body which concludes that Muslims in Europe are facing hostility. The report by the Group of Eminent Persons, headed by former German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer, says Islam is perceived as a threat by many Europeans who believe Islam is incompatible with a European way of life yet it is spreading fast on the continent.
The report, released on Tuesday, also proposes guiding principles to help deal with the current trends of rising extremism and discrimination. Davutoğlu said the report touched on very important and sensitive issues and called for contributions to a debate on the basis of the findings of the report.
“We all need to be in solidarity across Europe in regard to our common values,” Davutoğlu said. He argued that keeping one's identity should not come at the expense of integration, saying that individuals can have multiple cultural identities.
In an article published earlier this month, some members of the Group of Eminent Persons said immigrants should not be expected to renounce their faith, culture or identity; that the right to freedom of expression must not be curtailed; and that public statements that tend to build or reinforce prejudice, particularly against members of minorities, must not be left unanswered. They also said the Council of Europe and the EU should work together on an immigration policy for the whole of Europe.
“We need a self-confident Europe that embraces diversity and accepts multiple identities. If one can be an African- or Italian-American, why not a ‘hyphenated European' -- a Turkish-German, a North African-Frenchwoman or an Asian-Briton?” wrote the authors of the report in the article.