of Europeans arrive here each year to visit historic sites like the
Blue Mosque; to savour the aromas of roasting kebabs, barbecued fish
and apple-flavoured water pipe smoke; and to haggle with merchants at
the energy-oozing Grand Bazaar.
But Turkey is increasingly
unwelcome in Europe as the rise of Islamophobia crushes much of the
optimism that this economically and militarily powerful Muslim country
will fulfil its long-standing dream of joining the 27-nation European
Far-right parties have gained ground in numerous European
countries in recent elections, with anti-Muslim Dutch Freedom Party
leader Geert Wilders declaring during his recent breakthrough campaign
that Turkey’s Islamist prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, is “a
French President Nicolas Sarkozy has insultingly
dismissed Turkey — which is claiming Istanbul as Europe’s 2010
“capital of culture” — as not being a legitimate European country
since most of its land mass is in Asia.
And German Chancellor
Angela Merkel fed into the growing anti-immigrant mood by lamenting
last week that Germany has “utterly failed” to integrate its 2.5
million Turkish minority.
“Ten years ago, the majority of Turkish
people were for membership in the European Union, but now it’s the