The presidents of Turkey and the U.S. will open the Turkish-American Culture and Civilization Center in Maryland, Turkey’s foreign minister said Sunday.
Mevlut Cavusoglu, on a three-day visit to Washington, visited the center that also has a middle-sized mosque, and lunched with representatives from the American Muslim community.
“During a phone call, President (Recep Tayyip) Erdogan asked President (Barack) Obama to accompany him in opening the center together and President Obama accepted his offer’in principle,’” Cavusoglu told the representatives.
If Obama’s schedule allows at the time of the opening, he will accompany Erdogan.
The complex is built on a large area and consists of a coffee house, gift shops, cultural center, amphitheater and exhibition hall, computer lab, library, Turkish bath/hamam and guest house.
Cavusoglu said the center has been constructed as a place where all Muslims in the U.S. could come together and worship freely.
He said Muslims have faced increased challenges across the world, particularly due to rising Islamophobia.
“Our duty is to tell the true Islam which is a religion of peace. Islam does not tolerate terrorism. But unfortunately al-Qaeda and Daesh terror groups have tarnished the image of Islam,” he said.
Daesh, also known as Islamic State is neither Islamic nor is a state, he added.
Recalling that Turkey has contributed to the construction of the center in Maryland, the top diplomat said Turkey has contributed to development and infrastructure projects in Muslim countries, citing Somalia, Djibouti and Myanmar.
Cavusoglu also touched on Pope Francis’ comments on 1915 events.
Francis said Sunday that “the first genocide of the 20th century” had struck Armenians, referring to events that took place during World War I when a portion of the Armenian population living in the Ottoman Empire sided with invading Russians and revolted against the empire.
The Ottoman Empire relocated Armenians in eastern Anatolia following the revolts and there were Armenian casualties during the relocation process.
Armenia has demanded an apology and compensation, while Turkey has officially refuted Armenian allegations about the incidents saying although Armenians died during the relocations, many Turks also lost their lives in attacks carried out by Armenian gangs in Anatolia.
Ankara agrees there were Armenian casualties during World War I but says it is impossible to define these events as “genocide.”
The European Parliament also passed a resolution recognizing the 1915 events as “genocide.”
Referring to the resolution by the pope and European Parliament, Cavusoglu said recent anti-Turkey propaganda showed that it makes a big difference when Muslims are victims or subject of an event.
There is a clear double standard against Muslims, he said.