Islam Europe's reality: Turkey's EU Minister
Islam is a reality for the European Union and Europeans won't get anywhere by burying their heads in the sand, EU Minister Egemen Bagis said yesterday. "It is Islamophobia rather than Islam that is visible in France and across Europe," Bagis said, referring to French far-right leader Marine Le Pen's recent statement that Islam was "more visible" than before in France. "We know Ms. Le Pen's statements on Turkey and our values but we don't care too much. Some 11 percent of the French population is Muslim and 8 to 9 percent of the population of EU member states is Muslim. This number will increase to 15 percent across Europe in 2030. Like a former German President said, Islam is a reality of the European Union. They won't get anywhere by burying their heads in the sand," Anatolia news agency quoted Bagis as saying. Le Pen said in a recent interview that she did not have a problem with Turkey but that the main problem in France was the "visibility" of Islam. She also said she was against Turkey's EU membership and could not understand why Turkey was seeking membership of a union which everyone wanted to get out of, while admitting that the EU was not acting fairly toward Ankara. Former German President Christian Wulff said in 2010 that Islam, like Christianity, was a part of Germany and his words sparked controversy in Germany. Regarding the debate over whether Islam belongs in Germany or not, President Joachim Gauck said last year that he did not endorse Wulff's statement, but respected his position, in an interview with German magazine Die Zeit. "The truth is that there are many Muslims living in the country. What I will say is this: Muslims living here belong in Germany," Gauck said. "It would be more beneficial if they tried to understand the real message of Islam: peace, brotherhood, sympathy. The crisis that Europe is going through is a sign that they are not on the right track," Bagis said, while calling on the bloc to defend its values. "Ms. Le Pen does not need to have exploitation. Instead she should communicate with the French public. They should see that playing politics over Turkey is not working anymore."