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Will Turkey learn a lesson from the Charlie Hebdo attack?

ySTANBUL (CyHAN)- There are a lot of lessons that the Turkish government, media and pro-Islamic and secular segments of society should learn from the recent massacre at the Paris office of the Charlie Hebdo French satirical magazine, in which at least 12 people were killed and 10 injured when three Islamic fundamentalist gunmen opened fire with Kalashnikov rifles while shouting "Allahu Akbar" (God is great).

The lessons that Turkey should learn first and foremost from this brutal attack against the French magazine is that it should attach utmost importance to the freedom of speech and to the tolerance of diverging views, no matter how painful, if it wants to prevent its citizens from turning into extreme fundamentalists.

Turkey, NATO's only Muslim-majority member and a candidate member nation to the European Union, has joined European and Arab nations in their strong condemnation of the attack, in which famous French cartoonists and caricaturists Jean Cabut (also known as "Cabu") and Stephane Charbonnier ("Charb") were among those killed. The attack on Charlie Hebdo, the deadliest of its kind in France in at least two decades, came amidst repeated threats because of its caricatures of Prophet Muhammad and other controversial sketches.

The French magazine's most recent tweet displayed a cartoon mocking radical terrorist organization Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. Yet, Charlie Hebdo has also targeted Christian religious symbols as well as world dignitaries in its satirical coverage. The magazine has not come under violent attacks from those Christian fundamentalists or dignitaries that it has mocked, but it has been attacked violently by those extreme Islamic fundamentalists.

The core reason, perhaps, for Charlie Hebdo being brutally attacked by Islamic fundamentalists stems from an absence of universal principles such as freedom of the press, freedom of expression and the sacredness of human rights in the Muslim world, which creates a breeding ground for disappointed youngsters, who sometimes turn to extremist elements and resort to violence.

The slogans shouted by millions of people in France pouring into Republic Square in Paris -- that freedom of the press is non-negotiable, while describing the massacre as the darkest day in French history in the media -- have demonstrated the importance attached to media freedoms in France in particular and in democracies in general.

It is true that Turkish theologians, major media outlets and the government have strongly condemned the attack against Charlie Hebdo, but the government's reaction to the detention of two Dutch journalists on the same day that Charlie Hebdo came under armed attack was not promising in the sense that it represents a big U-turn in its witch hunt against media members in particular and the opposition in general.

On Jan. 7, Justice Minister Bekir Bozday-, for instance, defended the detention of a Dutch journalist, saying she was interrogated as part of an investigation into pro-Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) propaganda.

Another journalist, Mehmet E[pounds sterling]lgE-r, a Dutch citizen of Turkish origin, was detained at ystanbul AtatE-rk Airport but was released after questioning, and is currently awaiting trial. Shortly before that, Dutch journalist Frederike Geerdink was briefly detained on Jan. 6.

Bozday- has claimed that Turkey has been unfairly criticized over the detention of journalists. He argued that journalists are not detained because of their jobs, but rather for their involvement in crimes such as drug and arms trafficking or forging documents.

However, Turkey has received heavy criticism from the international community for failing to respect press freedom.

Isn't it ironic, in the meantime, that President Recep Tayyip Erdoy-an's office released a statement on Jan. 7 denouncing the Charlie Hebdo attack while at the same time it has been drawing attention to tension stemming from intolerance of religious and cultural differences, as well as to hate speech, urging the world to unite against such tendencies? It is ironic, because Erdoy-an and his government have increasingly been pursuing repressive policies that they have in fact been playing a large role in, effectively polarizing Turkish society, some of whom are pious Muslims and some of whom are secularists.

Isn't it also striking that some of Turkey's extremely religious circles issued a veiled warning to a Turkish satirical magazine, Leman, on Jan. 7 for showing solidarity with Charlie Hebdo?

Meanwhile, in Egypt, Dar al-Ifta, a national institute that issues fatwas (Islamic religious edicts), has also condemned the massacre at Charlie Hebdo. This is despite the fact that Dar al-Ifta issued a fatwa against the Danish cartoons satirizing Islam in 2005.

It is tragic that Turkey, which earlier had been cited as a model for the Arab world of how Islam can be compatible with democracy, is now being watched with great concern in the world as it turns into an autocratic regime.

LALE KEMAL (Cihan/Today's Zaman) CyHAN

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Publication:Cihan News Agency (CNA)
Geographic Code:4EUFR
Date:Jan 9, 2015
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