The right to talk nonsense

The right to talk nonsense

EU Minister Egemen Bağış was perfectly right when he said that “to speak nonsense was a freedom.” A short while later, the minister said that “everyone who enters Taksim Square will be considered a terrorist.”

I am not sure if his first remark was an opening line for his second. But Mr. Bağış’s government, dizzy with the spreading wave of dissent, seems to be generously enjoying the right to speak nonsense. A single man who started standing silently in Taksim Square and a few others who joined him for this unusual act of protest were detained by the police (Turkish protester’s civil obedience act in Taksim ends in custody, Hurriyet Daily News, June 17, 2013). An opposition MP asked the government benches: “Do you intend to detain everyone who does not vote for your party?” in the moments after the police launched a witch-hunt against “terrorists” (read: people who protest the ruling Justice and Development Party [AKP]) and detained dozens. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan also vowed to further increase the police force, which already numbers around 300,000. Thank you, prime minister, I knew I did not write it without reason: “Democratic Police Republic of Turkey,” (this column, May 24, 2011).

In another speech, PM Erdoğan complained that the EU had no respect for democracy. At the same time, his deputy, Bülent Arınç, was telling newsmen that the army could step in to stop protests if need be. And, in the exact same moments, Interior Minister Muammer Güler was telling another group of newsmen that the government was working on a draft bill to restrict the use of social media. I must admit that when I wrote “Democratic Police Republic of Turkey,” I could not have imagined that within two years Turkey would progress so fast as to detain dissidents just because they stood in a public square in silence. I knew making the Gaza Strip look like Istanbul was too ambitious, but I would never imagine the government would so efficiently make Istanbul look like Gaza. Speaking of the Arab world, who says there are restrictions on freedoms? On the Arab Street there is absolute freedom of the type Minister Bağış mentioned. Here we go: Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi, president of the Association of Muslim Scholars, and the ideological leader of the Muslim Brotherhood, issued a written statement last week stating that he fully supports Mr. Erdoğan. The honorable academic also said that the Turkish protesters, by merely protesting about what they protested, were “acting against Allah’s will.” Ironically, Mr. Qaradawi said that just a couple of days before Mr. Erdoğan famously remarked that “one is of his friend’s religion,” Mr. Erdoğan’s wording for “tell me who your friend is…”

But what (figurative) religion is Mr. Qaradawi, the fierce supporter of Mr. Erdoğan? In April 2004, he issued a fatwa declaring a Muslim boycott of American and Israeli-made products. Trade statistics show that Mr. Erdoğan’s Muslim Turkey meticulously ignores that fatwa, although apparently that does not make Turkey an infidel country for Mr. Qaradawi. In May 2004, Mr. Qaradawi said: “There is no dialogue between us [Muslims and Jews] except by the sword and the rifle.” Here, Mr. Erdoğan’s Turkey may qualify as a good Muslim country. At least it tries its best. And in 2005, Mr. Qaradawi issued a fatwa permitting the killing of Jewish fetuses, based on the logic that when Jews grow up they might join the Israeli military. Now, the same “scholar” is telling hundreds of thousands of Turks that they are acting against God’s will. Nice. But I am curious when the respected academic of the Muslim world will declare that those who don’t vote for Mr. Erdoğan’s party will burn in eternal fire in Hell. Mr. Erdogan is right: One is of his friend’s religion.

As Stanley Weiss put it in the Huffington Post: “The issue at the heart is should Turkey be ruled by the laws of God or the laws of men?” (The Megalomania of Erdogan the Magnificent, the Huffington Post, June 18, 2013).

Right to talk nonsense