Cartoons and beyond...
Most of the time reality and perception; principles, norms and realpolitik might not necessarily complement each other. On the contrary might indeed head-on collide.
The Mohammad cartoons issue was taken back from the archive and served again. Obviously no one has the right to prohibit consumption of beef in Christian societies because of the sacrosanct place of cows in the Indian society. Yet, no one with some brains can go to the extent of offering a beef dish to an Indian.
Depicting Prophet Mohammad is not only banned, it is one of the major sins in Islam because of its categoric rejection of man-made gods as well as anything that might contradict with the absolute oneness of Allah. This was not the first time a violent cultural confrontation was lived because of the attempt to test the boundaries of freedom of expression through depicting in abhorrible style the prophet of Islam or Islamic values. No one can have the right nor can anyone forgive beheading of a teacher because he showed students some of those cartoons. Nor can anyone have the right to use that despicable hate crime as the pretext of launching an all-out hate offensive against the Islamic communities.
Recently, I was asked to write a section in a book on Turkey-EU relations. Europe, or as we often refer to in Turkey, the Western World, has its own misgivings, oddities and contradictions. While preaching Turkey rightfully that it should show more respect to its cultural, religious and ethnic minorities, in a crazy manner some senior statesmen in Europe might consider it appropriate to indulge in a wholesale discriminatory, onlooking and hateful attitude reminiscent of that applied by the Nazis of Europe’s recent past against the Jews.
I wrote in that article that “Respect for and protection of minorities clause of the Copenhagen criteria has been often used in criticizing Turkey’s fight against separatist terrorism. It is a fundamental right for every country to take adequate security measures against threats aimed at its national or territorial integrity. However, in Turkey there is a Kurdish or “Eastern” problem, which could not be resolved throughout the republican era and way back in the fading period of the Ottoman Empire in the 19th century.
This issue, together with other ethnical, cultural or minority issues pertaining to life-style, could be considered part of Turkey’s overall democratization problem; if Turkey were to undertake all the reforms required for EU membership, even if it might opt not to become a member or fail to get sufficient support to become a member, a democratic society and country will undoubtably emerge. In such a Turkey there will not be a Kurdish problem or other minority problems produced by obsessive conservative ethno-nationalist perceptions or the so-called Balkan phobia, a bad inheritance of the Balkan defeat and consequent serious land loss of the Ottoman era. This issue remains to be one of the most intractable impediments of Turkey’s EU accession process but unfortunately there appears to be a structural incompatibility between Turkey and the EU.
There is a fundamental and structural problem between Turkey and the Western world. There is of course a conjectural problem of intolerance to criticism, occasional restriction of the right to demonstrate, or as was seen in the Catalan case, excessive use of state power on people trying to exercise the right to self-determination. Yet, it definitely cannot be said that institutionalized authoritarianism is a common tenet of today’s democratic league of nations.
It can as well be argued that while demonstrations in support of a certain foreign leader might not be tolerated say by the German, Belgian, French, Dutch or the American police, the same police might show tolerance to demonstrations by supporters of a group considered by one of Berlin’s important allies as a separatist terrorist organization. Was such behavior by the police force of Turkey’s allies a product of a perennial conspiracy, as the Turkish establishment and by and large the majority of Turks believe, that not only brought the end of the Ottoman Empire but has been instrumental in stalling the progress of Turkey?
The perception of the people at the helm of the Turkish state today has been that Americans and Europeans want Turkey to be with them as a ‘buffer state’, or worse a ‘client state’ that should neither die, nor prosper. Based on this conviction, there was an assumption that the current surge in tensions between some European countries and Turkey, and as well as between Ankara and Washington was a byproduct of Turkey, over the past couple of years particularly since 2007, having stopped being a ‘client state’ and started developing its own policies, priorities and pursuing its own interests even if those interests were in conflict with the interests of the Western alliance.”
The French leader or the Dutch opposition deputy very much involved in hate crime today are not unfortunately alone in disseminating hate speech in Europe.