Wednesday, July 12, 2006

False Parallels

I stumbled upon a curious article in The Brussels Journal, a group blog which bills itself as propagating "essential news from the capital of europe." The author is one James P. McConalogue, an author and editor from Oxford, England.

His essay, entitled "From Orhan Pamuk to Oriana Fallaci", is essentially an argument in favor of the freedom of expression in Europe. I wrote about this subject in the aftermath of the Muhammad cartoon crisis and I fully agree with his underlying point (even though I bristle at Fallaci's noxious rhetoric).

What's curious about McConalogue's article is the way in which he couches Turkish novelist Orhan Pamuk's famous battle with the government over charges that he had "insulted Turkishness" by public ally mentioning the Armenian genocide and Turkey's treatment of the Kurds.

McConalogue would like to draw a parallel between Pamuk and Italian journalist Oriana Fallaci, who has been charged with defaming Islam in Italy. To this end, he chooses to see Pamuk as somehow having run afoul of a Muslim status quo in Turkey.
...Pamuk's case clearly demonstrates the religious boundaries that have to be challenged in order to attain free expression in transitional democratic countries.
The only problem is that Pamuk's case doesn't demonstrate this in the least. Article 301 of the Turkish penal code, which prohibits insulting Turkishness and the Turkish military, was dreamed up not by Muslim extremists, but by the militant secularist diciples of Kemal Atatürk. The people behind the prosecutions of Pamuk and other writers are nationalists who adhere to a vision of the Turkish state that is anathema to radical Islamists in Turkey and beyond.

I agree with McConalogue on the importance of free expression, but there is absolutely no connection between Pamuk and Fallaci. The juxtaposition appears to be based on a rather lazy assumption that because Turkey is a Muslim country, to run afoul of its government must be to run afoul of Islam. Nothing could be further from the case.
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