Balkans-inspired Islamophobia targets Turks - Foreign Policy
The site of centuries of Christian-Muslim clashes, the Balkans have in recent years inspired the world’s Islamophobic far-right to view Turks as a Muslim menace, U.S. magazine Foreign Policy reported.
Many Greeks were shocked after the word “Turkofagos” was found written on the rifle of Brenton Tarrant, the man charged with killing 51 people in the New Zealand mosque attacks last month.
“Literally translated, it means ‘Eater of Turks.’ Historically, it was an honorific bestowed upon fighters who distinguished themselves in the Greek 1821 revolution against the Ottoman Empire,” FP said on Monday.
The term goes back to the birth of the Greek nation, when a “Turk” was anyone who was not a Christian, according to FP.
“The darkest aspects of the term Turkofagos have more recently been resurrected by far-right and nationalist groups as they apply the term to honour any killer of Muslims,” said FP, adding that Tarrant likely encountered the term as he travelled the region in recent years, stopping in Montenegro, Serbia, Bosnia, Croatia, and Bulgaria, and in Greece and Turkey for more than two weeks each.
“In the Islamophobic music that is a widespread part of life in the Balkans, the term ‘Turk’ is still used as a pejorative to refer to any Muslim,” said FP. One song in praise of Serbian nationalist and convicted war criminal Radovan Karadzic advises, “Turks must be killed,” apparently referring to Bosnian Muslims.
Tarrant was an avowed admirer of Serbs who have earned praise by far-right groups for fighting in famous battles against Ottoman armies. Many have blamed Serbia’s anti-Muslim wars for the rise of the far-right, but FP said such Islamophobia is common across the region.
Members of the Greek Neo-Nazi party Golden Dawn fought in the Serbian war, and might well have taken part in the Srebrenica massacre itself, where more than 8,000 Muslim Bosnians were killed, according to FP. More recently, Bulgarian militias patrol the country’s borders to prevent refugees from arriving from Turkey.
“Across the West, today’s far-right imagines the Balkans—still home to the largest Muslim population outside Asia and Africa—as a central battleground,” said FP. “In their vocabulary, ‘Turks’ serves as a shorthand for a regional Muslim menace.”