Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Islamophobia in Europe

"My first impulse is not to analyse or understand the motivations of the men who attacked Charlie Hebdo. The news from Paris initially brought me immense frustration and sadness, because this attack is a blow to those people who, like me, believe that Muslims can live in peace alongside Christians in Europe. This attack is an attempt to kill the hope of it.

Many of my friends have worked at satirical Turkish magazines and so I was introduced to Hara-Kiri, Georges Bernier and François Cavanna’s earlier magazine, and later read Charlie Hebdo. In countries where free speech is under threat you find a strong tradition of satirical magazines, many of which are bought by young readers. In my country, where only recently Twitter and YouTube were banned, these magazines are always under pressure. Nothing on the scale of what happened at Hebdo has happened here, but many in Turkey share the anger and frustration of the French.

Silencing the opposition, or free speech, by terror, killings or by law has a long, sad history in my part of the world. One of my earlier books The Black Book, published in Istanbul in 1990, tells the story of the killing of a newspaper columnist who wrote subversive articles. Unfortunately freedom of expression has fallen to a very low level in Turkey.

It’s not just writers who have the responsibility to defend free speech. We all have that responsibility — to communicate our culture and the worlds in which we live. We must stand up and defend free speech, no matter what. It would be a great mistake to link the French author Michel Houellebecq’s latest novel, about Muslim rule in an imaginary France in 2022, with this event. Of course we should defend the right of Houellebecq to express himself but it is obvious to me that the issues are separate and that the animosity towards Hebdo has a long tradition.

We must remember the horrendous act that has taken place, the lives that were lost, and stand firm against this destruction of free speech, this attack on human creativity and, I must emphasise, on human dignity. Tension has been building: this attack has coincided with a rise in Islamophobia in Europe. I am sure Europe will be careful not to fall into the trap of directing its anger at all Muslims. I hope these brutal attacks do not escalate. I am worried that they might."

Orhan Pamuk no The Times.

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