Turkey tells Pompeo to focus on racism and Islamophobia in US
Turkey has condemned U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo for trying to promote religious freedom during an upcoming visit to Istanbul and called Wednesday on Washington to focus on racism and hate crimes in the United States instead.
The U.S State Department said in a statement Tuesday that Pompeo would travel to Istanbul to meet with Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I, the spiritual leader of the world’s Greek Orthodox Christians.
The top U.S. diplomat plans to discuss religious issues in Turkey and to promote “our strong stance on religious freedom around the world,” the statement read.
Turkey’s Foreign Ministry rebuked the statement “as extremely inappropriate,” insisting that the country protects the rights of citizens of various faiths to freely practice their religions.
“It would be more advisable for the United States to look in the mirror first and to show the necessary sensitivity to human rights violations such as racism, Islamophobia and hate crimes in its own country,” the Turkish ministry said in a statement.
“Our reaction on this matter was conveyed to the U.S. side, and it was suggested that (Washington) focus on increasing cooperation between our countries on regional and global issues,” the Foreign Ministry said.
In July, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan converted Istanbul’s landmark Haghia Sophia into a mosque. The site was built as a cathedral during the Byzantine empire, but was converted into a mosque after the Ottoman conquest of Constantinople in 1453.
Erdogan later also announced a decision to transform the Church of the Holy Saviour in Chora, another Byzantine-era church in Istanbul, into a mosque as well.