JOOST – Anti-smoking neighborhood watch

Anti-smoking neighborhood watchWith the Turkish lira nose-diving and a journalist being arrested for doing his job — disclosing a coup attempt against the government — you could be forgiven for having missed another diatribe against smoking and drinking alcohol by Turkish President Recep Tayyip ErdoIan.Speaking at a Green Crescent Society (YeIilay) event last week, he called on Turkish citizens andquotto create a social landscape where smokers are condemned.

[andhellip] Serious neighborhood pressure is needed against smokers and those who drink alcohol. We should together establish a social environment in which smokers are chided and drug addicts are treated as though they are ill.

andquot This was not the first time the president spoke out strongly against consuming tobacco and alcohol. Before the presidential elections last year, ErdoIan recalled his andquotpersonal sensitivitiesandquot about smoking and drinking alcohol and promised, if elected, to do everything in his power to fight against these, in his eyes, harmful products.

However, with last weekand#39s call, ErdoIan has taken his personal obsession to another, in my view very dangerous, level. He essentially granted a license to every Turkish citizen who dislikes or, like the president, hates smokers and alcohol drinkers to take action against them If people who agree with ErdoIan take his speech seriously — and why wouldnand#39t they — they have now officially been given the authority to approach people they see smoking or drinking alcohol and tell them to stop andquotbecause the president told them to do so.

andquot What will happen if those addressed tell the fanatics to mind their own business and get lost? Are we sure nobody will cross the thin line between expressing oneand#39s opinion and forcing an unwilling person to obey?ErdoIanand#39s ill-considered call to go after the smokers and drinkers reminded me of two things. One is the debate about andquotneighborhood pressureandquot that we witnessed some years ago in Turkey.

The term was coined by world-renowned Turkish sociologist Ierif Mardin to describe the pressure applied by a peer group to encourage people to change their attitude or behavior It popped up during the discussion about allowing headscarves in universities when several observers (both supporters and opponents of keeping a headscarf ban) warned that taking this step would inevitably lead to a slow but inexorable move toward forcing women to cover their heads in other places as well, due to neighborhood pressure. With his latest appeal, ErdoIan has again fueled fears that part of his long-term plan is to prescribe his own social conservative values as the only legitimate and acceptable options, not through legislation, but through societal pressure.

The other association I had relates to the country ErdoIan just visited: Saudi Arabia With all the profound differences between the two countries, the anti-smoking and anti-drinking campaign the Turkish president tried to kick-start last week would bring Turkey one step closer to resembling the kingdom In Saudi Arabia there is a special organization tasked with enforcing Shariah law as defined by the government. This Committee for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice consists of thousands of officers and many more volunteers who are constantly trying to enforce Islamic dress codes, prohibiting the consumption and sale of alcoholic beverages and banning consumer goods regarded as anti-Islamic.

Though the former king tried to keep them in check, there is growing anecdotal evidence suggesting that, under new King Salman, the morality police are resurgent again. Was ErdoIan in one way or another inspired by what he recently saw and heard in Saudi Arabia and did he decide to organize his own campaign a la Turca against bad habits?Let there be no misunderstanding: Personally, I have never smoked.

I am a moderate consumer of alcohol, and I really dislike being forced to inhale smoke or being confronted with drunken people. I am happy with the current ban on smoking in Turkey.

But I also know that there should be clear limits to the methods used to convince people to change their habits. Calling on citizens to create a climate of societal fear that turns smokers and drinkers into outcasts who must be harassed, and, if necessary, treated aggressively, definitively does not belong to that repertory.

SOURCE: Today’s Zaman