Turkey slams Greek archbishop’s remarks on Islam

Turkey’s Foreign Ministry condemned remarks by the Archbishop of Greece Ieronymos II on Islam, saying they targeted the faith and Muslims.

Islam is a religion of peace based on tolerance and compassion that ensures the coexistence of other faiths and civilisations, the ministry said in a written statement on Monday.

“Under the conditions of pandemic that has encompassed the whole world, while everyone should strive for developing an environment of mutual respect and tolerance, defamation of our sacred religion is regrettable,” it said.

In an interview published last week, Ieronymous called Islam a political movement instead of a religion. He spoke on the 200th anniversary of the Greek War of Independence that ended the rule of the Ottoman Empire in 1821. He later clarified his comments, saying he was speaking out against Islamist extremists and reiterated his respect for all religions. 

The archbishop’s comments incite society to hostility and violence against Islam, the ministry said. Such statements are responsible for an increase in racism, Islamophobia and xenophobia in Europe, it said.

“The fact that such a statement was made at a time when preliminary preparations are being made for exploratory talks (between Greece and Turkey) is also meaningful and is an unfortunate step towards undermining the process,” the ministry said.

Senior Turkish and Greek officials have said they will meet on Jan. 25 in Istanbul for exploratory talks on maritime boundaries in the eastern Mediterranean.