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Erdogan urges fight on Islamophobia 'like anti-Semitism after Holocaust'


Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan delivers a speech during an emergency meeting of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation in Istanbul, on March 22, 2019, to discuss the March 15 deadly attacks on two mosques in Christchurch


Istanbul: Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Friday called on the world to fight back against Islamophobia in the same way it responded to "anti-Semitism after the Holocaust", following the deadly attacks on two New Zealand mosques.

The Turkish leader has presented the mosque attacks, by a self-avowed white supremacist who killed 50 people, as part of a wider assault on Islam and demands the West do more against anti-Muslim sentiment.

"Just as humanity fought against anti-Semitism after the Holocaust disaster, it should fight against rising Islamophobia in the same determined fashion," Erdogan told an emergency meeting of ministers from the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation in Istanbul.

"Right now we are facing Islamophobia and Muslim hatred," he said.

During the March 15 attack, alleged gunman Brenton Tarrant killed 50 men, women and children -- the victims aged between three and 77 years old -- in a massacre that sparked global revulsion.

He livestreamed much of the killing and spread a manifesto on social media claiming it was a strike against Muslim "invaders".

Representatives from the OIC, which groups Muslim countries, said in a statement that "genuine, comprehensive and systematic measures" were needed to tackle the "affliction" of Islamophobia.

They called on countries with Muslim communities and minorities to refrain from statements and actions that associate Islam with "terror, extremism and threats." In his hate-filled "manifesto" before the mass killing, the accused killer suggested neo-Nazi ideology and immigration prompted his action and mentioned other right-wing extremists.

He also referenced Turkey, and Istanbul's landmark Hagia Sophia, that was once a church before becoming a mosque during the Ottoman empire.

New Zealand's government on Friday reassured Muslims living in the country they would be "safe and secure" despite the deadly attacks in Christchurch.

"Ensuring Muslim communities in New Zealand feel safe and secure is a particular focus," New Zealand Foreign Minister Winston Peters told the OIC meeting.

Peters said New Zealand authorities would make sure "no stone stays unturned" in the prosecution of the attacker.

"This person will face the full force of New Zealand law and spend the rest of his life in isolation in a New Zealand prison," he said.

Erdogan, campaigning for local elections this month, had angered New Zealand's government by repeatedly showing the video made by the alleged gunman, an Australian who was arrested after the massacre.

The Turkish leader also angered Australia with comments about anti-Muslim Australians being sent back in "coffins" like their grandfathers at Gallipoli, a bloody World War I battle.

More than 8,000 Australians and nearly 3,000 New Zealanders -- part of forces known as ANZAC -- died fighting Turkish forces at Gallipoli, which has a prominent place in Australia's collective memory.

On Friday, the tone was more conciliatory. Turkey's Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu praised New Zealand authorities and their "sincere solidarity messages".

"We are here to show we are one body against Islamophobic actions across the world," he said.

Peters said he did not feel a need to discuss the Turkish leader's use of the attack video, but he said he had been reassured on Erdogan's Gallipoli comments.

"We are returning home to New Zealand with grateful reassurance that our people who come here to commemorate ANZAC will be as welcome as they always were," he told reporters.

The Muslim call to prayer rang out across New Zealand on Friday followed by two minutes of silence nationwide to mark a week since the attack. Thousands of people -- including Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern -- stood silently in a park opposite the mosque where the killing began.

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