UPDATES WITH PAKISTANI PM'S REMARKS IN GRAFS 19-24; ADDS MORE BACKGROUND
By Servet Gunerigok
WASHINGTON (AA) - Muslims are most subjected to hate speech, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Wednesday.
Erdogan was speaking at an event co-hosted by Turkey and Pakistan on encountering hate speech at the UN headquarters.
"Today, Muslims are the most subjected to hate speech, cultural racism, discrimination and insults. Muslims' workplaces, homes, worshipping places are targeted by racist and fascist groups almost every day," said the president.
He said Muslim women are harassed for wearing headscarves on the streets and workplaces.
"As a country, which has 6.5 million citizens abroad who are impacted by hate speech and attacks, we cannot overlook this issue," he added.
Erdogan remarked that hate speech is normalized by populist politicians and media and cannot be considered within freedom of opinion.
He also denounced violence against Muslims in India who eat beef and urged respect for freedom of faith.
"In India, how will we defend Muslim youth who are being whipped, beaten by machetes and even sentenced to death just for eating beef," Erdogan said.
Cows are considered sacred in the Hindu religion and there has been a rise in attacks on Muslim cattle owners by Hindu nationalists, with several self-styled cow protection groups emerging.
Turning to the situation in Kashmir, he said it has turned into an open-air prison and its residents have become prisoners.
"Important duties fall on all [foreign] state institutions," said Erdogan, and urged more active steps on regional and international levels.
He called on international institutions, technology companies, education institutions, media, and non-governmental organizations to act to resolve the row.
"Turkey is resolved to defend the rights of Muslims living in Jammu and Kashmir and make their entry and exit free," said Erdogan.
The president also criticized India's foreign minister and the country's envoys in Turkey for expressing discomfort over Ankara's approach to the Kashmir issue.
"I mean, will we determine our policy in any country by asking or taking permission from the leaders in those countries?" said Erdogan.
Since 1954, Jammu and Kashmir had enjoyed a special status under the Indian constitution which allowed it to enact its own laws until Indian government’s move on Aug. 5 to scrap the special status of the disputed region. The provisions had also protected the region's citizenship law, which barred outsiders from settling in and owning land in the territory.
India and Pakistan hold Kashmir in parts and claim it in full. China also controls part of the contested region, but it is India and Pakistan who have fought two wars over Kashmir,
Reacting to attacks on Islam, the president said linking Islam, a religion of peace, with terror is an immoral slander. It is unacceptable, he said.
"We will continue to pioneer all efforts to actively fight against Islamophobia, racism and hate speech," he added.
Also addressing the event, Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan called for effective measures to counter hate speech and Islamophobia.
According to a statement by his office in Islamabad, Khan underscored the growing incidences of discrimination and violence based on religion and belief.
He said both the motives and consequences of them should be addressed to over the issue.
"All the Muslim leaders need to put more efforts to explain why attempts to denigrate revered Muslim personalities, especially Prophet Muhammad, cause pain and offense to billions of Muslims," Khan said.
Khan rejected attempts to equate Islam with terrorism, as well, stressing that such self-serving approaches were dangerous and therefore should be avoided.
He also called for promoting greater understanding and tolerance among the communities across the world.
*Dilara Hamit in Ankara, Islamuddin Sajid in Islamabad contributed to this story