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Turkish envoy requests S. Korean authorities to act against Islamophobic movement in southern city

By Park Sae-jin Posted : November 15, 2023, 17:51 Updated : November 16, 2023, 09:57
A truck displaying placards that show Islamophobic slogans roamed the streets near the construction site of a mosque in Daehyun-dong Area in Daegu City Photograph from Muaz Razaqs X formerly known as Twitter Muaz Razaq is a Media Representative of KNU Muslim Community for Daegu Mosque Issue
A truck displaying placards that show Islamophobic slogans roamed the streets near the construction site of a mosque in Daehyun-dong Area in Daegu City. [Photograph from Muaz Razaq's X (formerly known as Twitter). Muaz Razaq is a Media Representative of KNU Muslim Community for Daegu Mosque Issue]
SEOUL -- The southern city of Daegu, well known for its culture that cherishes the humble traditional Korean virtues and teachings of Confucious, has been caught up in an uncommon conflict over the construction of a mosque near the central city area.

About a dozen of Muslim students at the Kyungpook National University, mostly international students from Pakistan, started their religious gathering in 2012 by renting a small room near the university campus to pray. Five students purchased a cheap house when the rent contract for the original prayer room ended in 2014. According to the university, there were 2,295 international students in 2021 and 317 students were Muslim.  

Not many years have passed since the prayer room was first set up until it became too crowded because the number of Muslim students who used the religious area increased to some 80 people. Some students who could not pray inside the house came out to the front yard of the house but they had to face the hot rainy season during summer and extreme cold during winter.

In 2020, students established a non-profit organization and decided to officially build a mosque by purchasing three more houses adjacent to the existing building and received approval from the Daegu Buk District office for the construction of a "religious assembly hall," which is included in the commercial building category of "community facilities."

Students chose to build the mosque in the Daehyun area because it was close enough for them to travel by foot from the university between study breaks. Students with a low budget also found Daehyun-dong attractive because housing prices in the area were also relatively cheaper than other areas in Daegu. The students also felt a need for a place where they could be provided with a sense of community and belonging.

However, about one month before the completion of the building, Muslim students were met with unexpected complaints from nearby residents and Christian civic groups who claimed that the presence of foreign people and the mosque made them feel unsafe. Some people filed complaints to the district office that the approval for the construction of the mosque was not carried out fairly and the religious building would violate the residents' rights to pursue happiness.
 
Some villagers in the Daehyun-dong area display cooked pigs heads in front of their houses to protest against the construction of a mosque Photograph from Muaz Razaqs X formerly known as Twitter Muaz Razaq is a Media Representative of KNU Muslim Community for Daegu Mosque Issue
Some villagers in the Daehyun-dong area display cooked pig's heads in front of their houses to protest against the construction of a mosque. [Photograph from Muaz Razaq's X (formerly known as Twitter). Muaz Razaq is a Media Representative of KNU Muslim Community for Daegu Mosque Issue]
Some residents stopped heavy machinery such as excavators from entering the construction site while some held "village parties," involving pork barbecues in December 2022. Some people displayed cooked pig's heads, regarded as a delicacy by many South Koreans, on their walls facing the construction site and on the alleys near the mosque. When mosque officials asked villagers to move the pork, they claimed that they could not because the display of pig's heads was part of the village culture.

Residents' coordinated action to hinder the construction of the mosque sometimes aroused conflicts between Kyungpook National University students who supported their Muslim friends. They strongly condemned some villagers' actions while residents defended themselves by saying that they have the right to do anything they want on their land. Residents continued to hold pork barbecue parties.

The conflict between the mosque community in the Daehyun-dong area and residents is still ongoing even though some residents were slapped with heavy fines for obstructing the construction of the mosque.
 
Salih Murat Tamer the Turkish Ambassador to South Korea Photograph by Park Sae-jin  swatchsjpajunewscom
Salih Murat Tamer, the Turkish Ambassador to South Korea [Photograph by Park Sae-jin = swatchsjp@ajunews.com]
"First, I'd like to underline that we know there is no place for Islamophobia or anti-Muslim sentiments in Korean society," Turkish Ambassador to South Korea Salih Murat Tamer told Aju Korea Daily on November 10. The envoy stressed that people should act in common sense and in a rational way against groundless anti-Islamic opinions.

"The Korean people interacted with various other communities for centuries and we know that they do not harbor this kind of extremist tendencies among themselves," Tamer said. The Korean Peninsula has been the home of people from various cultures and countries since the seventh century when the Silk Road stretched out from the Middle East to Gyeongju, the capital city of the Unified Silla Kingdom (676~935).
 
The Turkish envoy also urged South Korean authorities to intervene if necessary to end the conflict. "In order to prevent the spread of Islamophobia, we kindly request from the relevant authorities to be vigilant toward this specific development and intervene if necessary," Tamer said."

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