Thursday, August 30, 2007

Wordpress Banned in Turkey at Behest of Islamic Creationist

When I first blogged about Islamic creationism, I thought the topic merely offered a different twist on the whole creationism debate here in the US. Unfortunately, it turns out that Islamic creationism is anything but harmless. Ali Eteraz, in an August 20 web commentary for the Guardian, explains why:

The San Francisco based million-blogger strong blogging platform Wordpress was recently informed by the legal representative of Turkish writer Harun Yahya that under orders from a Turkish court "access to has been blocked in Turkey." The letter listed a number of "defamation" blogs - "all" of which make allegedly "slanderous" remarks against Harun Yahya. This ban is significant for the larger ripple it casts in Turkey's new Islamist democracy.

Harun Yahya is the author of the glossy Islamic creationist volume mentioned in my previous posts. In his column, Eteraz provides some disturbing details about Yahya's earlier writings:

Harun Yahya, which is the pen-name of Adnan Oktar, is a sort of spiritual head of a vast Islamic apologist outfit in Turkey, which has reached Islamic publishers in London, Canada and the US. Though Harun Yahya is described as a "charlatan", he has made inroads with Muslims all the way from Indonesia to America.

His books cover topics including refutations of atheism and Darwinism, romanticism as a weapon of Satan, anti-evolution pseudo-science, affirmation of miracles, and attacks on Freemasonry, Zionists, Buddhists, and terrorism (Darwin's fault). In 1996, Harun Yahya published a book called Holocaust Lies (also called Holocaust Deception), which claimed that "what is presented as Holocaust is the death of some Jews due to the typhus plague during the war and the famine towards the end of the war caused by the defeat of the German." Oddly, a few years later, he pinned anti-semitism on "neo-paganism" and "Darwinism" while putting himself forward as a denouncer of anti-semitism. Additionally, Yahya denies writing Holocaust Lies, but that is hard to believe.

According to Eteraz, Yahya is trying a silence a Wordpress-hosted blog run by one of his critics. The Turkish courts obliged him by blocking access to all of Wordpress and its more than one million blogs. Unfortunately, this is not Yahya's first attempt at censorship. Eteraz points out on his blog that Yahya has tried at least once before to have a web site that criticized him banned.

Even more worryingly, Yahya's efforts at censorship are the continuation of a longstanding effort by Islamic creationists in Turkey to silence their critics. An article in the May 5, 2005 issue of an independent Kansas City newspaper called The Pitch details this campaign by Yahya's organization, the BAV:

Turkey is a secular country that aspires to join the European Union and boasts several institutions of higher learning on a par with good Western universities. But beginning in 1998, BAV spearheaded an effort to attack Turkish academics who taught Darwinian theory. Professors there say they were harassed and threatened, and some of them were slandered in fliers that labeled them "Maoists" for teaching evolution. In 1999, six of the professors won a civil court case against BAV for defamation and were awarded $4,000 each.

But seven years after BAV's offensive began, says Istanbul University forensics professor Umit Sayin (one of the slandered faculty members), the battle is over.

"There is no fight against the creationists now. They have won the war," Sayin tells the Pitch from his home in Istanbul. "In 1998, I was able to motivate six members of the Turkish Academy of Sciences to speak out against the creationist movement. Today, it's impossible to motivate anyone. They're afraid they'll be attacked by the radical Islamists and the BAV."

(Emphasis added-DD; link via Eteraz's article)

The most disturbing thing about this case is not Yahya's desire to silence his critics; it is that the Turkish government is willing to act as his personal web censor. Combined with Turkey's recent election of an Islamist president, and other troubling incidents, the banning of Wordpress could potentially be the harbinger of a dangerous period for free expression in that country.


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