Two weeks ago, Arzu Erbas, a Dutch woman of Turkish descent, was killed in Amsterdam. Amsterdam local newspaper Het Parool quickly found out that the killer was probably a man of Turkish descent as well, and it could be the case that it was the father who was forbidden by court order to see his child and was several times refused permission by Arzu to pick up his child from the day care centre she ran.
So I was totally surprised to read this article in Today’s Zaman last Sunday: it’s about several Turks murdered in Belgium and the Netherlands, and how some people think that islamophobia is behind these murders. With no proof or argument whatsoever the writer of the article includes the murder of Arzu Erbas in his article too. I immediately wondered: Today’s Zaman is a religious newspaper, and a topic like this suits their columns, so maybe they found it better not to get too distracted by the possible facts that were all over the newspapers in The Netherlands? And that a picture of headscarfed Arzu Erbas would really suit an article about islamophobia?
I decided to ask the author of the article himself. I sent him an email asking why he included her although there is no reason whatsoever to believe there was islamophobia behind the killing. He replied, writing that ‘the reflection and perception in the public after back to back murder news coming from Europe is such that I felt needed to be written to convey to our readers’. A bit complicated sentence, I guess he means that ‘the public’ was worried by the news from Europe and he needed to interpret it for them.
Reasonable in general, but then isn’t it the responsibility of a journalist to not go along with the first sentiments of people talking about islamophobia, but to make an effort to find out what might really have happened? Had he done that, he would not have put Arzu Erbas (whose second name is Çakmakçı) in the story, and write specifically about that case: ‘Çakmakçı’s murder was a case in point, and it looks very much like a hate crime against Muslims. (…) Her father was quick to pinpoint spreading racism and xenophobia in the Netherlands as the motive for her stabbing.’
Author Abdullah Bozkurt wrote me that in the article he does point out that ‘some of these murders may have nothing to do with hate crimes and the case is still pending.’ So why point to islamophobia then, especially when there is more and rather dependable information available that you could refer to?
Yesterday Dutch police announced that they are pretty sure they know who the killer of Arzu Erbas is: a 41 year old Turk, Nevzat Koyak, living illegally in the Netherlands and addicted to drugs and alcohol. He has not been arrested yet, and the police are asking the public to help them locate the man.
I hope Nevzat Koyak will be arrested very quickly. And that Today’s Zaman will be unbiased enough to publish something about that too, hopefully also reflecting on how not every murder of a Muslim has something to do with islamophobia. And that too easily assuming that it is, might in fact stir people up against each other just as much as islamophobia itself.