Sunday, December 02, 2007

Turkish publisher of 'The God Delusion' faces jail

While all British political parties stand united in their support for admitting Turkey into the European Union, it appears that the Turkish publisher of Richard Dawkins' best-selling atheist manifesto ‘The God Delusion’ has been threatened with legal action by prosecutors who accuse him of 'insulting believers':

Erol Karaaslan, the founder of the small publishing house Kuzey Publications, could face between six months and a year in jail for "inciting hatred and enmity" if Istanbul prosecutors decide to press charges over the book, which has sold 6000 copies in Turkey since it was published this summer.

"A reader complained, saying that he wanted the book banned and the publishers punished", said Mr Karaaslan after talks with the Istanbul state prosecutor. Mr Karaaslan, whose company specialises in self-help books and children's literature, has been given a few days to prepare a written statement of defence.

This is not the first time Dawkins has come up against the wrath of the Turkish authorities. Published here in the mid-1990s, his less confrontational book The Selfish Gene also faced problems, with the Islamist government then in power trying to get it banned from bookshops. The God Delusion, the fourth of Dawkins' books to be published in Turkish, sparked controversy with its damning approach to religion and unashamed avowal of atheism. While some appreciated his frankness, many questioned the book's relevance to Turkish readers.

"It aims to explain atheism from the perspective of Christianity", one amateur reviewer wrote, "and I don't think that's of much use in a Muslim country, because Muslims are already aware of the contradictions and oddities of Christianity as it is." Another writing on a popular blogging website was more direct: "If I were God, I'd give Dawkins a good smacking" they wrote.

Mr Karaaslan is by no means the first publisher to face investigation in Turkey, a country that has become notorious over the past two years for a slew of cases based on laws restricting freedom of expression. Nobel prize-winning novelist Orhan Pamuk and Armenian-Turkish journalist Hrant Dink were two of dozens of writers to be charged last year under a controversial law that makes it a crime to "insult Turkishness." Pamuk was acquitted. Dink – who was murdered this January by a 17-year ultra-nationalist - was convicted.

The fact is, analysts say, that for all that it has a secular constitution, Turkey remains a relatively conservative country. The word atheist has only recently appeared in Turkish, but "godless" still remains an insult here. "Only 2% of the people we interviewed said they didn't believe in God", says Ali Carkoglu, co-author of a 2006 study of religious attitudes.

"Given that we had a 2% margin of error that could mean nobody", he added. "In any case it takes considerable courage for a Turk to admit to a stranger that they are atheists."

In this atmosphere, writers like Richard Dawkins will invariably cause a stir. Polls done last summer showed that only 25% of Turks accepted evolutionary theory.

Turkey in the EU? Cranmer can hardly wait for such cases to come before the ECHR. And if this is the fate of Mr Dawkins' publisher, what fate awaits Mr Dawkins himself? Crannmer might even be prepared to fund the flight, just out of curiosity...


Anonymous Morus said...

Whilst I can imagine that Your Grace is rarely on the same side if a debate as Noam Chomsky, I recall seeing him speak alongside Harold Pinter and Michael Mansfield at the Bar Council's Kurdish Human Rights Project event at St Paul's Cathedral some years ago.

Mansfield told the story that Chomsky had written a new political book that one would imagine would go down rather well - except that it mentioned Turkey and the Kurds. The Turkish translator and publisher were imprisoned and were facing 20 years inside, before 78-year-old Chomsky turned up in Ankara and petitioned the court to say that if they were found guilty then he would have to be found guilty too. To avoid embarassment of imprisoning a wel-known American, the men were freed, but it took him subjecting himself to serious consequences.

I do not believe in free speech as a right, but as a marker granted by governments of mature societies. Unless Turkey can grow up and deal with the inevitable influx of godless goods and services, it is perhaps in her own best interests that she is kept away from the EU membership list.



2 December 2007 at 12:52  
Anonymous najistani said...

Your Grace,

Turkey is not a favourable environment for Darwinists such as Dawkins.

"A lavishly illustrated “Atlas of Creation” is mysteriously turning up at schools and libraries in Turkey, proclaiming that Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution is the real root of terrorism.
Arriving unsolicited by post, the large-format tome offers 768 glossy pages of photographs and easy-to-read text to prove that God created the world with all its species.

At first sight, it looks like it could be the work of U.S. creationists, the Christian fundamentalists who believe the world was created in six days as told in the Bible. But the author’s name, Harun Yahya, reveals the surprise inside. This is Islamic creationism, a richly funded movement based in predominantly Muslim Turkey, which has an influence U.S. creationists could only dream of.

Creationism is so widely accepted here that Turkey placed last in a recent survey of public acceptance of evolution in 34 countries — just behind the United States."


2 December 2007 at 13:30  
Blogger Homophobic Horse said...

The EU wants Europe Islamised so as to fulfill the EUs supra-national dreams.

2 December 2007 at 16:14  
Blogger PsychStudent said...

...[I] do not believe in free speech as a right, but as a marker granted by governments of mature societies...

I've always been of the view that the people grant their powers to Governments - in which case free speech is fundamnental.

Turkey in the EU - no thanks!

2 December 2007 at 16:36  
Anonymous mickey said...

Turkey seems to be becoming increasingly belligerent of late, your Grace. So I would not be surprised to see this prosecution go ahead.

Turkey has a military force of 1 million men. It also provides an air corridor into Syria for Israeli counter-nuclear bombing raids (see Today's TImes) and air bases for US operations in Iraq (/Iran). For these reasons alone, it was able to block the recent US congressional vote for recognition of the Armenian Christian genocide.

We do not know what the Middle East will look like at the time when Turkey may be granted EU accession. But my suspicion is that Turkey will be a yet stronger presence in the region and, therefore, considerably more strident about the terms it expects from the EU, in all respects. Book banning may be amongst them!

ps. Your Grace may be interested to know that the first global jihad of the 20th century was plotted by Germany & Turkey to undermine the British Empire. The architect of the plot being a man called Oppenheim.

2 December 2007 at 16:36  
Anonymous Morus said...

Psychstudent: What a lovely idea! Simply not true, though, philosophically, politically or historically.

To make an even half-decent case for rights language in political and moral philosophy, you have two options:

(a) Be a legal positivist, in which case you have rights because Government grants them to you. They are a facet of human law.

(b) That they are granted by God, and are 'natural rights' possessed by all. I would take this a little more seriously if God had introduced them through his recognised prophets Moses, Abraham, or Elijah. I find it slightly less credulous that he chose John Locke, a comparitively irreligious social contract theorist of the 17th century, as His vessel for such a fundamental truth.

Rights are like witches and unicorns - you can describe them in great detail, and they are common concepts, but that should not cause us to believe that they are in any way real.

Until we stop foolishly believing in social contract theory (that community or society is nothing more than an agrgegation of individuals), then we will never understand how to run our own society, let alone interact with others.

I can believe, intuitively, almost exactly the same things as an adherent of rights language, but to be foolish enough to use that linguistic framework is a folly that I am not prepared to indulge.

That was all I meant.



2 December 2007 at 19:40  
Anonymous the last toryboy said...

Or that those rights are self evident.

You don't need to be a theist at all to posit the existence of human rights. In fact its not like religion historically has been all that big on human rights, has it.

...from your manner of writing I imagine you'll make an argument of that but its no crazier than theistic philosophers beginning their line of reasoning with the premiss, "God exists.". Now where did /that/ come from?

2 December 2007 at 19:55  
Blogger Homophobic Horse said...

Rights are an enlightenment fad. All anti-Christian ideas have at their centre a luciferian gnostic enlightenment.

2 December 2007 at 20:42  
Anonymous Morus said...

To 'The Last Tory Boy'

Ah - self-evident truths!

Not so self-evident before the Enlightenment. This is the fundamental failing of Liberal philosophy, that even Bernard Williams accepted: Liberalism is unable to account for why the ancients were not Liberals. Philosophies that claim to be 'sub specie aeternitatis' are always on shaky ground, especially when history can show them to be manifestly false.

You are correct that Human Rights have not been a central plank of religions - they have older, and better, ways of describing what is morally good or bad (Thomist, or Aristotelian virtue ethics in particular). I was attempting to draw out the irony of saying that, if you do not accept the legal positivist position, you need to come up with another source of the validity of rights, and this was once God, and that there is an irony in the most ardent believers in human rights being atheistic secular liberals, who remove the only valid philosophical root of their language.

If you have a foundation for rights other than government or God, but better than claims they are 'self-evident' I would be glad to appraise it.



2 December 2007 at 21:40  
Anonymous the last toryboy said...

But my point is, ethics has to be begin somewhere. You can say it begins with God, or you can begin with some other self evident truth, a premiss on which to build your ethical system. God is one founding option but not the only one, and certainly not the only valid one.

Whether its Christian morality, Confucianism, secular humanism, or whatever, 'Christian morality' does not trump the others just because it's got a flying spaghetti monster at its centre and the others don't.

If you, Morus, were a pious man in the the 1200s you'd probably be arguing about how the divine right of kings is valid and reasonable because God exists. I suspect now you think other things are valid and reasonable because God exists. 'God' seems to be an overly malleable basis for ethics, given that...

2 December 2007 at 22:33  
Blogger Homophobic Horse said...

"flying spaghetti monster"

Don't forget concept and percept toryboy. The percept bit will no doubt tickle you.

2 December 2007 at 23:25  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The interesting question is; are Dawkins, Dennett, Hitchens and their comrades going to blame unnamed Christian fundamentalists for this one? That all religions are the same and therefore Dawkins has to come up with yet another of his A-Level computer simulation showing how Fundo Tribe A will suppress Free Tribe B when memes collide?


3 December 2007 at 02:00  
Anonymous the last toryboy said...

I must admit I'm not quite sure why Dawkins keeps most of his bile for Christianity with all these open goals out there. Presumably because he's pitching to a US audience.

3 December 2007 at 03:32  
Anonymous asian colonial subject said...

"If you, Morus, were a pious man in the the 1200s you'd probably be arguing about how the divine right of kings is valid and reasonable because God exists."

Just to add my two cents, this idea that everyone in the 1200s were arguing for the divine right of kings is a contemporary myth.

During the middle ages, the king was considered subject to laws and in no way above them and this fact is compounded further when the king was Christian and not pagan.

The idea of kings being subject to laws is articulated by John of Salisbury then by Henry de Bracton, who drew the comparisons between the situation of kings and the situation of the king of kings who, although sovereign, chose to be "born under the law" (Gal 4.:4).

(See John of Salisbury "Policraticus" and Henry de Bracton "De legibus et consuetudinibus Angliae")

The idea of divine right in its most complete form supposes that the authority of kings is sovereign, however, this notion only came about in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, as its opponents rigorously pointed out.

(See Locke's Two Treatise of Government and Maine's Ancient Law)

The battle cry of the theologians of that time was "vox populi, vox Dei". It was understood back then that "The emperor is from the people, but the empire is called divine by God". Thus, there was little said about how the king is chosen, Bonaventure went so far as to mock succession by primogeniture. The king might be designated by acclamation, in the case of a general proclaimed emperor by the army.

(See Kantorowicz King's Two Bodies)

Nicholas of cusa went so far as to define divine authority by the very fact that decision comes from the subjects collectively reaching an agreement:

"All legitimate authority arises from elective concordance and free submission. There is in the people a divine seed by virtue of their common birth and the equal natural right of all men so that all authority-which comes from God as does man himself-is recognized as divine when it arises from the common consent of the subjects"

(See his "De concordantia Catholica)

Therefore, it is clear that the origins of modern electoral democracy is not from Athens, but it is from the medieval church.

The Church also at that time worked hard to minimize the sacred aspects of the coronation by excluding it from the list of sacraments, to prevent the kings from giving themselves divine legitimacy.

However, I am a believer of Dostoyevsky's premise that "If God does not exist, all things are permissible"

I agree with Morus about his comments on self-evident truths. This idea is pretty dead in our time, as is the common saying of philosophers, "One philosopher's obviously true is another philosopher's clearly wrong".

3 December 2007 at 09:38  
Blogger Sean said...

asian colonial boy,

A very erudite post. Medieval rulers who were seen to be inadequate could be and were deposed, without it being generally thought that such an action was sinful.

3 December 2007 at 18:20  
Blogger Sean said...

"Therefore, it is clear that the origins of modern electoral democracy is not from Athens, but it is from the medieval church."

One can trace the origin of modern democracy to both, I think.

Not that an Athenian would have regarded representative democracy as being at all democratic.

3 December 2007 at 18:23  

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