Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan concluded his five-day visit to the U.S. on April 3 with remarks at the dedication of an Islamic center, in which he criticized the rise of anti-Muslim rhetoric in America.
During his stay, Erdogan attended a nuclear summit in Washington, D.C., and delivered a speech at the Brookings Institution before traveling to Lanham, Maryland, to inaugurate the Turkish-funded Diyanet Center of America, USA Today reports.
At the inauguration ceremony in Maryland, Erdogan noted the rise in attacks on Muslims over the past several years, which, according to him, stems from Americans associating Islam and terrorism. Erdogan stressed, however, that terrorism isn’t unique to attacks on Western nations and that the majority of terror attack victims are Muslim.
"We have been fighting terrorism in Turkey for the past 35 years, so please make sure that you observe the terrorism not only in Paris and Brussels, but also in Turkey and Pakistan," Erdogan said, according to USA Today.
Erdogan noted that groups such as the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), ISIS, al-Qaeda and al-Shabaab are creating the association between Islam and terrorism, adding that it is important for the majority of Muslims around the world to distance themselves from these organizations.
"We have to keep the fight up against those who are defaming our faith," Erdogan said.
Erdogan's admonishment of Americans' behavior has come under scrutiny considering Turkey's treatment of journalists and political dissidents. Erdogan's administration is known for imprisoning its critics, and as a result, many protesters showed up at Erdogan's speech at the Brookings Institution on March 31, according to the Brookings Institution blog.
President Barack Obama also criticized Erdogan’s treatment of journalists, who the Turkish president has called "terrorists," especially those connected with or sympathetic toward the outlawed PKK, Reuters notes.
Erdogan has likewise criticized U.S. support for the PKK, which has been fighting an insurgency in the southeastern portion of Turkey since 1984. He defended Turkey’s press record and said that the people being jailed were supporters of terrorist activities.
"You cannot consider insults and threats press freedom or criticism," Erdogan said, according to Reuters.