Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan Reuters

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Friday slammed European countries for criticizing deteriorating press freedom in Turkey, Reuters reported, saying they should instead try to find a solution for the increasing Islamophobia in Europe.

Turkish police earlier this month raided media outlets close to U.S.-based Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen, whom Erdogan accuses of forming a 'parallel state' to undermine his rule and orchestrating a graft scandal targeting his inner circle.

The European Union, which Turkey has been seeking to join for decades, said the media raids ran counter to European values, a criticism already dismissed by Erdogan. On Friday, the President repeated his discontent, with a visibly harsher tone.

"We are not Europe's scapegoat," Erdogan told a symposium of civil servants.

"We are definitely not a country that Europe can point its finger at and scold. Instead of criticizing us, Europe should find a solution to increasing racism and Islamophobia," he charged.

Erdogan made reference to an incident in the German city of Dormagen, where ultra nationalists drew Nazi signs on the walls of a mosque construction, according to reports in Turkish local media earlier this week.

Erdogan, whose AK Party was elected in 2002, introduced many democratic reforms in his first years in power and curbed army involvement in politics.

NATO allies often cited Turkey as an example of a successful Muslim democracy, but more recently critics have accused Erdogan of intolerance of dissent.

The crackdown came almost a year to the day after Erdogan's government was rocked by stunning corruption allegations that the authorities denied and blamed on Gulen.

The corruption probe, opened on December 17, 2013, saw the arrests of dozens of leading businessmen and political figures close to Erdogan, who was prime minister at the time.

Erdogan's ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) came under mounting pressure during that time, especially when audio recordings were leaked in which Erdogan and his son allegedly discuss how to hide vast sums of money.

In response to the leaked recordings, Erdogan threatened to ban websites such as YouTube and Facebook.

His rant against Europe came two days after police in Turkey arrested a 16-year-old student on charges of insulting Erdogan.

The teen was arrested on Wednesday after criticizing the AKP during a speech at a student protest in the central Anatolian city of Konya. However, reports on Friday indicated he had been released.

(Arutz Sheva’s North American desk is keeping you updated until the start of Shabbat in New York. The time posted automatically on all Arutz Sheva articles, however, is Israeli time.)