Europe by bicycle to fight racism and Islamophobia
Recai Karaca Pak travels around Europe by bicycle to fight radicalism by making his culture known to the people he meets along the way.
It has been almost 15 months since a Turk, Recai Karaca Pak, who was born and raised in Germany, began his journey on a bicycle emblazoned with a Turkish flag. Its mission is to fight against the racist and Islamophobic perception of Muslims and Turks in Europe.
Today, after cycling nearly 10,000 km, Karaca Pak is in Turkey.
“It was like jumping in icy water because I had nothing to do with long bike rides or camping in the wild,” said Karaca Pak, 47.
The cycling journey that started from Cologne to Munich, then to Austria, Slovakia, Hungary, Serbia, Bulgaria and finally Turkey was an unknown challenge for him.
” I kept saying to myself ‘Recai … it will be better very soon … you will get used to it’, unfortunately it was not. Sitting on the bike for five, six or even ten hours a day was just one of the problems.
Then camping, I had never slept outside in my life before. You are all alone at night in the forest or you stand alone on a mountain, a knife in one hand and a flashlight in the other. ”
But these difficulties were not enough to distract him from his mission since the message he wanted to convey was more important than everything else.
“The way we deliver this message should be different,” explained Karaca Pak.
Metaphorically speaking, cycling means moving slowly but leaving a mark on false perceptions built over time.
Over 60 years ago, Karaca Pak’s family emigrated to Germany in search of better employment opportunities. Her family had to give up everything and leave their home due to financial problems.
Our loved ones, our families and loved ones, our language and our history, our delicious cuisine. We gave it all up. ”
Karaca Pak studied at the University of Kassel in Germany and set up a company after studying civil and industrial engineering. He later extended his company’s work to the field of medical engineering and worked with banks like Deutsche Bank and global giants like JP Morgan.
However, despite their dedicated work and understanding of life in Germany, he stresses that he and his family are marked by their experiences of racism and propaganda.
“I have consciously watched the news for 30 years and I don’t remember a single day that it adequately showed Turkey, our religion and our culture,” Karaca Pak said while indicating that most of the media maintain a biased image of Turks and Muslims.
He started his cycling initiative with a whole team supporting him and planned to speak with as many people as possible across Europe to raise awareness against what he describes as an injustice.
As he cycled alone for hours, his team checked the entire route and weather conditions for him.
As a team, we believed in this initiative and in this journey. It was a starting point for awareness and we thought we could do something. We wanted to appeal to people. ”
According to Karaca Pak, curiosity and openness are key when it comes to communicating with people on these issues.
” Know them, communicate and work together. These are the necessities to alleviate the situation, ” he said.
Karaca Pak took this approach and chatted with individuals and large groups on his trip – he spoke and chatted with people in cafes, restaurants, and on benches. Although the elderly have a stricter understanding of what he shared, he did not encounter any negative reactions except for a German who refused to give him water when he demand.
“We want to encourage people to know each other individually, but also to share their culture, their values, their food and maybe even their knowledge about faith or non-belief. “
In fact, he managed to become a guest in the home of a radical Serbian family he met by chance. He believes his direct and sincere interaction played a role in sharing a table. But at that point, he still didn’t know who they were.
“Later when I told my team about a few images that consisted of hand gestures in their house, we realized they were radical and I was very surprised.”
As he continued to exchange ideas with people and pedal to Turkey, Karaca Pak found the opportunity to reflect on radical ideologies and why these ideologies are a chronic affliction in Europe.
“I believe that racism in Germany and in Europe does not come from the people, but is brought to the people by the elite and the political parties.”
He argues that racism is a disease that we face in every generation. But the most important factor in the spread of this disease are the political actors who push for radicalism for electoral gains and the media organizations which amplify these divisions.
“We need to pass our history and our culture on to everyone. People need to know what their benefits are in approaching a new culture and tolerating it as usual. ”
He sewed the flag by collecting materials from each of the countries he visited as if it “ collects and integrates the elements of cooperation with these countries ”.
“I bought red cloth from Austria, white cloth from Hungary, you know from the grandchildren of Attila, and a post from Serbia. And that’s how I made the flag, ” he said. He pointed to the white cloth he bought from Hungary, a country that is also a member of the Turkish Council and is said to be linked to the Turks due to their ruler Atilla the Hun, who ruled one of the historic Turkish tribes.
Asked about his next destination in this awareness trip, Karaca Pak said he would fly to Mongolia from Turkey and cycle back from there.
“I plan to cycle about 14,000 kilometers to the places of our ancestors. We will put up a sign against all kinds of racism wherever we go.”
” We care about this in order to know better and promote our culture. ”
Although he thinks he has fulfilled an important duty, for him, this is only the beginning.
This road is just one small start among many. We want nothing more than to make the world we live in a better place and to provide our children with solutions for a better world. ”
Returning to this radical Serbian family, and in the context of several far-right attacks in Europe, when asked if he feared a similar fate, he laughed and said: “But nothing happened. . I guess some things have to do with the way you communicate and approach people. ”
Source: TRT World