Two Turks, a Brit, and an American Walk Into a Spar

Free Thought, Mild Criticism, and Reflexive State Media

1. “At that time [in 2006, after the Dutch cartoonists’ row]—already concerned about the rise of ‘anti-immigrant,’ ‘Islamophobic’ and ‘racist’ rhetoric in Europe—Turkish diplomats tried to raise awareness of this issue. They simply tried to convey the message that there should not be a hierarchical relationship between freedom of expression and freedom of religion, as Europeans tended always to put the former above everything else. Every time Turks tried to talk about freedom of expression being abused against Muslims, they hit the wall as Europeans told them: ‘freedom of expression is a core right!'”

“There is a limit to freedom of expression also when it comes to insulting religion, according to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR). But the ECHR leaves a wide margin of appreciation to the governments and national courts to resolve cases of conflict between freedom of expression and the ‘rights of others,’ in particular the right to respect for one’s religious feelings.”

“Most Western countries do have the necessary legal framework that regulates hate crime. But they need to strike a balance between freedom of expression and respect for religious feelings. The problem is, more often than not, the prosecutors and the judges tend to favor the principle of freedom of expression, underestimating the consequences of a discourse that borders on the incitement of hatred.”

—Barcin Yinanc, “Why Turkey can’t lead a ban on Islamophobia?” Hurriyet Daily News, Sept. 25, 2012.

2. “Most Libyans admire America and our heritage of liberty. It helps that the U.S. government—unlike Britain’s or Italy’s or France’s—never cozied up to Gadhafi. And this Fourth of July held a special resonance for Libyans: They took to the polls on July 7 in the first free multiparty elections since a vote in 1952 that was restricted to men and cast without secret ballots.”

“Libyans were jubilant because 1,453 out of 1,554 polling centers opened. They were proud that voting in the western part of the country proceeded peacefully. The bad news is that 101 centers in the east closed, and a couple of election workers were killed.”

“Some say that the separatist movements in the east is fueled by Gadhafi’s henchmen, who want a fragmented Libya they can continue to dominate. But it is also true that Cyrenaica and Tripolitania have been distinct cultural regions for some 2,000 years. They’re as far apart as Paris and Rome, or about 700 miles. While Americans have been quick to speak of ‘tribalism,’ it’s more useful to see Libya as a collection of multi-tribal city-states.”

“There’s also been a Chicken Little attitude toward the security situation in Libya—some of it fomented by those trying to sell private security services to foreigners operating there. While armed militias are rampant, the actual amount of violence pales compared to that in any midsize American city.”

“Libyans don’t want or need American aid money, or our military, though they could use some American expertise. What they really want is Americans’ respect, as equals, from one people who freed themselves to another. So let us welcome Libya to the company of free nations.”

—Ann Marlowe, “A Triumph for Democracy in Libya,” The Wall Street Journal, July 12, 2012

3. “Throughout history, it has often been the case that today’s ‘hate speech’ becomes tomorrow’s enlightenment. Today’s ‘incitement’ becomes tomorrow’s righteous subversion of unjust authority and flawed orthodoxies.”

“What has always driven repression of speech are the same universal human traits that are now flourishing as part of this latest effort: the tyrannical thirst for the power to silence ideas one dislikes, the self-regarding belief that one can apply objective principles of decency, ‘community’ and Goodness to decide which modes of expression and which ideas should be barred, authoritarian trust in leaders, and—worst of all—the refusal to understand that endorsing repression of ideas leaves one with no principled grounds to object when one’s own ideas end up on the prohibited list.”

“In sum, it takes a staggering amount of hubris to believe you’re in any position to decide which ideas are so objectively and permanently wrong that they should be barred. It takes an equally staggering amount of childishness to want some central authority to protect you from ideas that you find upsetting. And it takes extreme historical ignorance not to realize that endorsing the maintenance of a list of prohibited ideas and then empowering authorities to enforce it will inevitably lead to abusive applications of that power and, sooner or later, will likely result in the suppression of your own ideas as well.”

“[T]he ‘central government’ [of Libya] has no real authority outside of Tripoli and must therefore depend upon the very militias which they claim they are trying to undermine, a dilemma that is ‘trapping Libya in a state of lawlessness’.”

“In the immediate aftermath of Gadaffi’s death, proponents of the intervention rushed to publicly congratulate themselves and declare their pro-war position vindicated, to serve as a model for future wars. Worse, war proponents flamboyantly celebrated their own prescience and then ignored the aftermath of the war they helped cheer on, even though it is only that aftermath that will determine whether the intervention was actually good or bad for most Libyans.”

“How many times does it need be proven that merely killing a dictator does not remotely guarantee an improvement from either the perspective of US interests or the people in the country being invaded? And how many more examples do we need where the US funds and arms a fighting force to do its bidding, only to turn around and find that it now must fight that same force?”

—Glenn Greenwald, “Various items: free speech v ‘community’, lawlessness in Libya, sprawling surveillance state,” Guardian, Oct. 14, 2012.

4. [The Syrian crisis] is the issue on Turkey’s agenda nowadays. When members of the Turkish government want a break from Syrian affairs, there is the Kurdish issue, which is actually Turkey’s number-one problem, according to President Gul. When opposition parties point out that the majority of Turkish people do not want a war with Syria or any other country, they are accused of supporting al-Assad.”

“Other issues, such as the fact that Turks are using the most expensive gas in the world in their cars, or the mess that the educational system is in, cannot find their way up in the agenda. No one is expressing such mild criticism as ‘Universities are places where thoughts should be expressed freely. These days Turkish universities are exercising their right to remain silent,’ as the head of the Constitutional Court, Hasim Kilic, said.”

“The E.U.’s Turkey progress report is expected to be released on Oct. 10, tomorrow. According to leaked information, it may by the worst report in years, with a lot of criticism regarding democratic rights, media freedom and the drawbacks of the judicial system.”

—Murat Yetkin, “Since Turkey turned its eyes from Europe to Middle East,” Hurriyet Daily News, Oct. 9, 2012.


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