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Date: 18/09/08

Around The Block With Professor Dawkins

Adnan Oktar is a Turkish author, usually writing under the name Harun Yahya.

He is also a religious bigot, a holocaust denier and a convicted crook.

This has not stopped the Turkish courts from acceding to his demand that the website of the esteemed Professor Richard Dawkins should be blocked by Turkey's dominant former state-owned telecommunications company Türk Telekom. Oktar/Yahya claims that Dawkins' criticism of a sumptuous but inane volume Oktar/Yahya wrote constitutes 'defamation'.

I've long had problems with the Turkish Republic's pretensions to be part of Europe. Just because it once ruled most of the Balkans and still has that little blob around Istanbul doesn't mean it is European. Although the Republic itself is supposedly secular, the population it governs is overwhelmingly Muslim and one of its main political parties is avowedly Islamist.

However, just as UEFA believes that Israel and Kazakhstan are European (the former because no-one in their own region of the world will play them, and the latter despite the fact that it borders China), Turkey's position is a legal and geographical fiction which some find convenient.

To be fair, England's own laws on defamation are so widely-drawn and potty that rich crooks from around the world find reasons to use them to silence their critics (see The Usmanov Affair for an example).

That notwithstanding, the idea that a state which a) routinely jails people for referring to the Ottoman massacre of the Armenians, b) denies the Kurdish nation any degree of cultural or political autonomy, c) maintains and supports an illegal occupation of half of another sovereign country (i.e., Cyprus), and d) has a constitutional system which means that the military can prevent a democratically-elected government from taking office; and then adds e) whereby a prominent scientist's website can be blocked by a complaint from a fundamentalist oaf; the idea, as I say, that such a state could be considered eligible for membership of the European Union is quite frankly as barmy as Oktar/Yahya's writings.

In the spirit of spreading the truth, then, I point you to Professor Dawkins' discussion with Clive James at the recent Edinburgh Book Festival. Then to this lecture which he gave at the University of California, Berkeley, in March of this year.

Oh, and for the benefit of any free-thinking Turkish visitors who might be passing through, the lecture is also available on YouTube (which presumably religious nutjobs like Oktar/Yahya haven't got around to whining about yet) (*).

Perhaps Dawkins' webmasters would like to follow the example of Monty Python. When Life Of Brian was banned in one Scandinavian country, they promoted in Sweden under the slogan, "The movie so funny it was banned in Norway!"

(*) Update: It seems that YouTube is already banned in Turkey, apparently for allowing (Shock! Horror! How dare they!) clips critical of Atatürk. Hint: He's been dead for eighty years, guys - I don't think he cares anymore.