ORHAN KEMAL – No freedom of expression for atheists

No freedom of expression for atheistsTheir web page opens with a quotation from Katherine Hepburn: andldquoIand#39m an atheist and thatand#39s it. I believe thereand#39s nothing we can know except that we should be kind to each other and do what we can for people.

andrdquoAnd on each page you can see similar quotations from famous atheists around the world.I am talking about the website of the Atheism Association, to which access was blocked after a court order in AnkaraWhen I entered their blocked website using VPN, I could not see any comment about Islam or Muslims.

However, interestingly enough, the Atheism Associationand#39s website — established in Istanbul in 2014 — was blocked by the court under Article 216 of the Turkish Penal Code (TCK), which makes andldquoprovoking the people to hate and enmity or degrading themandquot a crime.Apparently — according to the Ankara court — being an atheist can in and of itself be seen as an insult to the religious values of society.

This decision is also implicitly based on the assumption that Turkey has an official religion — Islam If we do not have an official religion, how on earth could this court have seen atheism as a andldquoprovocationandrdquo?Not only this decision, but also a long list of acts, somehow indicates that there is an official religion and official sect in this country.This is why they do not recognize Alevisand#39 cemevis as places of worship, because they look at things through their understanding of Islam, which tells them to only recognize the andldquomainandrdquo religions — Christianity and JudaismThis is why they impose mandatory religious lessons on everyone and so on.

However, seeing atheism as an insult to the beliefs of a society is an extremely bigoted way of understanding freedom of religion and belief.If you are a Muslim who goes to the mosque and listens to centrally prepared sermons (the Religious Affairs Directorate prepares the sermons weekly and the same sermon is read at every mosque), then you have the freedom to practice your religion.

If you defy this model, you are seen as a troublemakerAnyway, if we return to the case of the Atheism Association, I really hope this extremely illiberal court order will be overturned by other courts during the legal proceedings initiated against this decision by the association.The chairperson of the Atheism Association, Tolga Inci, quite wisely made an appeal to devout Muslims in an interview held after the court announced its decision, saying: andldquoI signed a petition against the ban on headscarves when I was in university.

I now call on Muslims to sign petitions for our rights.andrdquoThough I just read one article from a religious columnist protesting the courtand#39s ban on access to their website, I have observed very limited support for the association from devout Muslims so farThis is typical Turkey.

Everyone wants freedoms for themselves and will not stand up for the rights of andldquoothers.andrdquo They only see their victimhood and suffering but cannot feel sympathy for others who have different beliefs and values.

SOURCE: Today’s Zaman