Jihad Watch Board Vice President Hugh Fitzgerald discusses Turkey’s demand that the EU adopt Islamic blasphemy laws:
Abdullah Gul, who works for Erdogan, both of whom have absurdly described Europe as being a “Christian club” — even as they belong to the “Muslim club” of the O.I.C. — is now trying to demand changes in the right of freedom of speech as understood within Europe. He and Erdogan are doing this despite the fact that Turkey has not yet been admitted to the E.U. One would think that at this point they would be trying to be on their best behavior, instead of issuing demands and veiled threats.
The E. U. will not, and should not, permit Turkey”s admission. Too many, during the Cold War, were willing to believe that Turkey was permanently on the road to ever more secularism, ever more Kemalism. Too many thought that the Cult of Ataturk — and not everyone recognized that it was merely a replacement for the only conceivable alternative, the Cult of Muhammad — was itself permanent.
It was not to be. The beneficiaries of Kemalism may now be about one-quarter of the population. But they were never sufficiently grateful to him to continue his practice of pushing Islam to the side of Turkish life. They never realized, for example, that instead of forever pretending that the Armenian genocide did not take place, they should have worked to have the question forthrightly studied, and once studied recognized — but recognized not as some fault inherent in “the Turks” but rather, as the result of Islamic teachings. Those teachings also explain the massacres of the Greeks in Smyrna, the anti-Greek violence in Istanbul in 1955 (in which 4,000 Infidel-owned businesses were destroyed), and the World-War-II era legislation, the Varlik Vergesi, that was in effect a kind of Jizyah imposed on non-Muslims (and on this, see the conclusions of a study by Faik Okte, who had been put in charge of collecting the tax).
The Turks, both Ottomans and Kemalists, have seen to an ever-diminishing population of non-Muslims in their midst. They have accomplished this through genocide, as with the Armenians; and through massacres, riots, forced conversions and exiles, as with the less numerous Greeks. Those Greeks now, in a population of 70 million, amount to just a few thousand. Now non-Muslims live in Turkey in a dangerously threatening environment, as is the case with the Jews there — whose supposed benign treatment in the Ottoman Empire has been a staple of Turkish self-preening and self-justification, and has proven in the past to be useful with quite a number of people influential in Washington. One staple of Turkish self-aggrandizement has been the invocation of the refuge found, and given, within the Ottoman Empire to Jews expelled from Spain: “look at how we gave them refuge in Salonika when they were hounded out by Christians in Spain” is a statement one hears endlessly.
But what one waits for, and does not hear, is mention of several other relevant facts. First, Jews may have been forced to leave Spain, but they were welcome elsewhere in Christian Europe, in Amsterdam, also part of Western Christendom. There their presence, and influence in Dutch society at its very best, can be observed visually in the paintings of Rembrandt (not that paintings should be studied as sociological artifacts), and in the fact of Spinoza — and in the beginnings, in Holland, of the Enlightenment. Second, the Ottomans who settled Jews in Salonika were replacing one Jewish community — which had been forcibly removed prior to this — with another. Third, the Ottoman Muslims never regarded the Jews as a threat. They were too small, and too weak, and their talents as traders, interpreters, dragomans, or as court physicians were too much needed: a plaque alluding to the tradition of Jewish physicians for successive padishahin can be found in the Topkapi complex itself. And though Jews were allowed to live as Jews in the Ottoman lands, it was as Jews, or as non-Muslims, that they also suffered from the usual disabilities that dhimmis could expect. In the European territories of the Ottomans, this in places included being subject to the devshirme. For more on the unvarnished history of the treatment of Jews, see Joseph Hacker’s essay (the best one) in the Braude and Lewis collection.
During the Cold War American governments saw Turkey as a provider of stalwart troops. And so they were. They were stalwart because they were fighting their historic enemy, Russia, in its embodiment of that time, the Soviet Union. Some, besotted by the ideology of progressivism, saw Turkey as permanently on the path to Westernization, the logical end result of the systematic constraints placed on Islam as a political and social force. John Foster Dulles was pleased to consider Islam as “a bulwark against Communism.” Turks fought bravely and stolidly in Korea (they also left behind what has now become tens of thousands of Korean converts to Islam).
The Cold War is over. Those once-valuable listening posts, those bases, are not quite so necessary. And in any case, they are not quite so useful — we were not allowed to use such a base for that famous fourth division that never arrived in Anbar Province from the north, because Turkey “surprised” the Pentagon by not permitting it. Not the last of the surprises. In the past Richard Perle and Douglas Feith have both been registered agents for Turkey. The Turkey they saw consisted largely of those wine-and-dining Turkish generals in Ankara. This was in the pre-Erdogan days. But now Kemalism has been shown to be transient, subject to constant wearing-down, and Islam turns out to be permanent.
Wherever a country has been Muslim, there will always be far more adherents of the primitive consolations of a Total Regulation of Life and Complete Explanation of the Universe that Islam can at least theoretically provide, and always far fewer prepared to jettison it completely, so that at least in one’s own family-line there is much less danger of it reoccurring, a symptom of mental disarray, in one’s children or grandchildren. Unless one takes steps to distance oneself permanently from it, it remains — an emotional and quasi-intellectual temptation. Imagine the horror of educated Iranian exiles living in, say, Los Angeles, upon discovering that their shy and awkward son has turned forcefully to Islam, the very thing which they fled, but still insisted, out of some kind of misplaced piety, to identify with — they still called themselves “Muslims” because they felt they had to call themselves something and, besides, they kept dreaming that Khomeini was an aberration, and that the benign Islam of their imaginings would some day come into being. In much the same way, those Turkish beneficiaries of secularism were insufficiently energetic and vigilant, while the party of Islam never let up, and is recovering ground, cunningly and surely.
The West cannot ignore all the telltale signs. It cannot ignore the power of Erdogan, or the attacks on this or that secular university rector. It cannot ignore the fact that the Turkish movie doing boffo box office depicts American soldiers in Iraq (the same ones who got rid of the Saddam Hussein regime, and then stayed only to rebuild schools and hospitals, and hand out candy and soccer balls, and to get a rudimentary democracy going, and — absurdly — to prevent civil war) as “worse than Nazis.” It also shows a “Jewish doctor” who traffics in organs taken from prisoners put to death, according to the movie, in Abu Ghraib. And if that same Turkey has at the top of the best-seller lists Mein Kampf, and if it furthermore has all kinds of politicians making the most absurd anti-American, anti-Israel, and now, added to them, anti-European remarks, then one would be a fool to ignore all this.
Well, perhaps it is fitting after all. By what Joyce with his Anna Livia Plurabelle would call a commodius vicus, the attempt by Turks to undo the rights of the Enlightenment takes us back to the Amsterdam of Rembrandt and Spinoza. Spinoza, the man who helped give Enlightenment ideas their earliest formulation — an Enlightenment which led, inexorably some might think, to the rights of the individuals, including the right of free speech. That right is only to be limited in this country when it is used to incite imminent and lawless violence. In Europe, for quite obvious and justifiable reasons, it is also off limits in a few places (e.g., Germany and Austria) to deny that the mass murder of Jews (the “Holocaust”) took place. This is a reasonable limitation, and does not alter the central importance of freedom of speech to Western societies.
Yet now Abdullah Gul, representing and expressing a primitive and permanently menacing view of the universe — menacing to free and skeptical inquiry — dares, when one might think Turkey would we walking on eggs, to demand a change in the rights protected by European countries, and by the European Community.
The request is absurd. Even daring to make the request is disgusting, and telling.