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ANKARA - Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan rejected attempts to call Turkey the representative of moderate Islam. "It is unacceptable for us to agree with such a definition. Turkey has never been a country to represent such a concept. Moreover, Islam cannot be classified as moderate or not," Erdoğan said, speaking at Oxford Centre for Islamic Studies late Thursday.
Erdoğan’s statements came only days before the visit of U.S President Barack Obama whose administration signaled a dramatic shift from George W. Bush in identifying Turkey as a moderate Islamic country. U.S Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had praised Turkey as "a democratic country with a secular constitution" during her visit to Ankara in March. In his speech, "Alliance of Civilizations and Turkey’s role," Erdoğan pointed to the lack of dialogue between different religions and cultures, which has led to distressing incidents in the world history.
"The animosity, unfortunately, strengthens the scenarios that there is a so-called clash of civilizations in the world. Those, who defend such speculations, may go further to identify the terrorism with Islam which is based on peace," he maintained, adding that the situation helps those who try to globalize Islamophobia.
Erdoğan also wanted Western societies to be more open to cooperation and dialogue with the East. "It should be known that adopting a malicious and offending approach toward the sensitive issues of Islamic world by hiding behind some democratic freedoms like freedom of speech and right of free publication is unacceptable," he said.
Drawing attention to the importance of mutual understanding and respect, Erdoğan stated that he believes and respects Moses and Jesus, and accepts them as prophets. "I expect the same attitude from a Jew or a Christian toward my own prophet," Erdoğan noted. He underlined the importance of Turkey’s European Union membership in terms of establishing connections between the West and the East.
"As a country whose population is mostly composed of Muslims, Turkey endeavors to get its place in the EU. Turkey’s effort is closely watched not only by European people but also by the citizens of Islam countries," he said. "The thesis that the West and the East, Islam and other religions cannot reconcile, has become invalid in Turkey’s membership process."
Erdoğan defended his verbal confrontation with the Israeli president at the World Economic Forum in Davos and added that he spoke up against the killing of innocent civilians and fulfilled his "duty as a human being." At a special session in Davos, Erdoğan stormed out of the stage after accusing Israeli President Shimon Peres of knowing only too well how to kill people.
"It was not possible to pass over the matter in silence ...We did not act as counsel for any organization," Erdoğan said, stressing that access to Gaza is still not allowed.