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Australian philosopher, literary critic, and professional writer. Author of FREEDOM OF RELIGION AND THE SECULAR STATE.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Atheist website blocked in Turkey

This is a disturbing story in many ways. As reported to me, the Turkish website Ateizm.org has been blocked from access within Turkey by a court order obtained by a Muslim creationist. The site is still accessible outside of Turkey, though most English speakers (including me) would need a translation for it to provide any value to them.

A more detailed account of events from the viewpoint of Ateizm.org can be found here.

One disturbing aspect is that the founders of Ateizm.org are at a great disadvantage. They cannot fight this effectively in the Turkish legal system because they have what appears to be a well-justified fear of the consequences if they reveal their true identities. As the individuals responsible for the most extensive criticism of Islam on the internet in Turkey, they may well be targets for attack by extremists - and they are clearly in no position to hire expensive security for themselves as Ayaan Hirsi Ali is forced to do outside of the Netherlands.

It is, of course, impossible for me to comment on whether their site contains any genuinely defamatory material, which seems to be the rationale for the closure. Even if it does, surely the order must be massively over-broad.

More generally, the combination of violence from extremists and the ability of creationists and others to seek court orders alleging defamation is an unbeatable one-two combination. This could make it impossible, in practice, for any robust criticism of religion, or of fundamentalist teachers, to be carried out in Turkey.

Turkey's success as a modern, secular democracy has been seen by many of us as a hopeful sign for the future - the existence proof that a country can combine its roots in Muslim traditions with a commitment to modernity and liberalism. All of this is currently under challenge - evidenced not only by this incident but by many others that display the potential fragility of Turkey's great social experiment.

Read about what has happened here, and judge for yourself.

2 comments:

Brian said...

If Kemal Attaturk was alive. He'd just shoot the creationists to preserve the secular turkish state. I believe there are still a few generals who still do this......

Ateizm.org said...

Ateizm.org would like to express their gratitude to Russell for publishing our story here. As he mentioned you might want to read more on this here at our blog:

http://creationistsbanatheism.blogspot.com/

Currently we are trying to get hold to the court order we've never received! Several global organisations want to know more about details.

One of our members created blogs about Harun Yahya's pseudo science and his blogs contained strictly scientific critics of Harun Yahya's creationist claims. No one would be able to find anything on his blogs that even resembles an insult. And he didn't have any forums. But they had his blogs blocked as well.

What happened with wordpress.com also proves that these bans don't have anything to do with the language used to criticise him. Think about it. Only a few blogs among thousands target a certain indivudual and they are not personal attacks, but mostly scientific evaluations of their creationism. But they found a way to get a Turkish court to reach a decision to close the whole domain. This shows the extent of their power and influence in Turkish Justice system and the Turkish government. (Actually, Harun Yahya himself, whose real name is "Adnan Oktar" publicly claimed that he has hundreds of his associates placed in the government. According to our friend who lives in Turkey, he actually admitted this on TV.

Same thing applies to our web site. Even if we separated the web site and the forums, we are almost certain that they would find a way to have it blocked. It is quite possible that the judge who signs these orders could also be his follower. (Harun Yahya is not only a creationist, but also a religious cult leader).

Their claim regarding slanderous remarks is just an excuse. They are not happy with the fact that they are being debunked scientifically.