New Religious Affairs Directorate office to work to dispel misunderstanding of Islam in Europe
Turkey's Religious Affairs Directorate next month will open an office in Brussels to educate Europe about Islam, in line with a decision made during Pope Benedict XVI's 2005 visit to Turkey. During the visit, it was decided that Turkey's presence in Europe proves the possibility of Islam and Christianity's peaceful coexistence. It was also concluded that Turkey, with its secular state and Muslim identity, could be a good reference for Muslims living in Europe. In order to block efforts to sow misunderstandings about Islam and stir up Islamophobia in the continent, the directorate decided to open a bureau in the European capital. This decision was also supported by the pope. It is hoped that the office will counter efforts to inflame Islamophobia. Work to make the idea a reality was accelerated in light of the Alliance of Civilizations project, co-chaired by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his Spanish counterpart, Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero. The bureau, which will work as a research center, will be opened by directorate head Ali Bardakoğlu. Its establishment has been closely followed and supported by the European Union. Primarily targeting Turks living in Europe, the office will also organize interfaith dialogue activities. Five secretaries and 30 theologians will be employed in Brussels for these purposes.