You Can Check Out Any Time You Like, But You Can Never Leave

Welcome to the Hotel Islamia!

While Pope Benedict XVI is visiting Turkey to promote dialogue, tolerance, and interfaith understanding, Turkey is busy making sure that Muslims within its borders don’t get any ideas about converting out of the One True Faith.

The door of Islam swings in one direction only. Once you’re in, you’re in. The only exit is via the grave.

Turan Topal and Hakan Tastan are two Turkish men who had the effrontery to convert out of Islam into Christianity. Turkey is a secular state, but it has a way of dealing with people like Mssrs. Topal and Tastan. Read the story from today’s Times Online:

Protestant missionaries face nine years for insult to Islam
Suna Erdem, Istanbul

Turan Topal and Hakan TastanWhen Hakan Tastan wanted to amend the religion on his Turkish identity card, his enthusiastic championing of Christianity exasperated the official barring his way. Eventually, the official gave up trying to oppose the controversial change. “Change this heathen’s religion and make him go away,” the devout Muslim told his clerks.

More than ten years later, the missionary zeal of Mr Tastan and his fellow Christian convert, Turan Topal, has led to much graver things than being called names.

They face up to nine years’ jail after going on trial last week for “insulting Turkishness” during their religious work, under the notorious Article 301 of the Turkish penal code. It is the same law that put Orhan Pamuk, the Nobel literature laureate, in the dock, and which the European Union wants amended.

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The case against two members of the tiny Turkish Protestant community has attracted criticism from the EUand cast a shadow over Pope Benedict XVI’s visit this week.

Mr Topal and Mr Tastan, who are charged with illegally gathering information on people and “insulting Islam”, have faced public anger in Turkey, where a mistrust of Christians has been growing, fuelled by the Iraq war, the EU’s critical attitude, the Pope’s comments linking Islam with violence and the Danish cartoons row.

Turkey has about a hundred thousand Christians, but most of them are from traditional Christian communities such as the Greek Orthodox Church. Those are descendents of the dhimmi Christian minorities from Ottoman times, and have been tolerated so long as they recognize their place.

But these two converts are from an exotic sect: they’re Protestants:

For Turkish Protestants, a community of about 4,000, that came into existence 20 years ago, there is no recognisable role. Mr Topal was one of the first converts 17 years ago. Mr Tastan, the son of an atheist and grandson of an Alevi Muslim, said that he read the Koran and then was given the Bible by a friend.

He converted during his mandatory military service. The pair and their lawyer, Haydar Polat, think that their indictment is part of a plot.

The three plaintiffs, young men aged 16, 17 and 23, contacted them through a friend saying that they wanted to find out more about Christianity. After two meetings, charges were filed.

The two missionaries were accused of calling Islam a backward religion and claiming that Turks would never become civilised unless they converted. They were also accused of trying to sell women and of possessing guns.

Selling women and possessing guns? Is that projection, or what?

A final word:

Mr Topal and Mr Tastan have forgiven their accusers. “We have a woman in our group who puts up with so much from her husband who is a Muslim. But even she has to love him because the Bible says so,” Mr Tastan says.

Now, once again, Turkey is a secular country. It’s ready to join the European Union and thus commit itself to human rights, equality under the law, religious freedom, yada yada yada.

But insulting Turkishness — that’s another matter entirely…

We’re all prisoners here, of our own device.

Hat tip: Jack Wheeler

11 thoughts on “You Can Check Out Any Time You Like, But You Can Never Leave

  1. I greatly admire Pope Benedict’s faith and courage, stepping into the jaws of the Islamic beast. Then, descending even deeper, pushing for religious reciprocity; you want mosques in “Rome,” we want churches in “Mecca.”

    Meanwhile, may I suggest you protect yourself against the march of Shari’a, Islamic law, before it storms your city, town, or neighborhood:

    Because there’s absolutely no reason to get yourself cornered and beheaded.

  2. It’s very sad to see the re-Islamicization of Turkey.

    1) From an American Perspective, the Turks proved to be good allies during the Cold War. The Islamists are turning them into rabid America-haters.

    2) From a Jewish perspective, no nation in the “Old World” treated its Jews better for centuries than Turkey, and it continued to have good relations with Israel until the Islamists started whipping up rabid anti-Semitism. (Yes, I am aware their treatment of Armenians and Greeks was hideous; but to Jews, they were good, and historically, we were never in a position to insist on moral righteousness from our host nations).

    3) Many saw Turkey as managing the balance between secular state and Islam, and this seems to be collapsing too.

    It’s a dark, sick world, and Turkey’s decline shows that it is getting sicker.

  3. Mhmmm, Turkey was the one Muslim country that made a determined effort to break into modernity. Ataturk recognized that modernity and Islam were incompatible, and pushed secularization on the country at gunpoint. But it seems that Ataturk’s heroic secularization efforts are fading, and Turkey is slipping back into the swamp from whence it came.

    Turkey still has very good relations with Israel, but thats the secular military expressing itselft, not the pseudo-Islamist popularly elected government.

    Speaking of governments, if Turkey is only protected from Islamist governments by undemocratic military coups, what on earth where the neocons smoking when they decided to democratize Iraq?

  4. “Speaking of governments, if Turkey is only protected from Islamist governments by undemocratic military coups, what on earth where the neocons smoking when they decided to democratize Iraq?”

    They need a sign in the oval office saying exactly this!

  5. Let’s be careful how we sstate things. Nobody is turning any tukrrs into rabid America-haters. Thye are doing it themselves. Turkey didn’t make “determined effort to break into modernity.” Ataturk did and the military has been enforcing it ever since.

  6. So much for the religion of peace. I have to tell you, the one way to defeat this scourge is through humor – Welcome to the Hotel Islamia – is one more little bit of spice to that brew of humor.

  7. Personally I think the Pope was an idiot to go to Turkey to appease the Muslims. To now support their entry into EU is also a travesty. I guess he’s just as chicken lillied (did I spell that right?) as the rest of us.

  8. Rositta–

    That was not the intention of the Papal visit to Turkey. I’ll post on this tomorrow, even though it’s old news by now…

    …I never thought he was going there to “appease” anyone; B. is incapable of aapeasement. Just ask the Curia.

  9. Exile, look at the bigger picture. The EU is attempting to create a “single european defence identity”, essentially an EU army, though focused on rapid deployment in light armour. Looking voer the specs for their vehicles and equipment, their army appears to be designed for urban fighting and “peace-keeping”, against lightly armoured enemies rather than against heavy armour. Now, here comes the paranoia. This army is supposed to be used outside the EU, but its design would make it just as easy to use within the EU, in cities and towns, against EU “citizens” whi might suddenly decide they don’t want to be in the EU anymore. Given that most europeans feel at least some comradeship with their fellow europeans, in spite of the EU rather tahn because of it, where would you source the personelle required to forcibly prevent, say, Denmark,f rom seceeding from the Union?

    Enter Turkey. A large conscript army, with no ties to any european country, combined with equipment designed to fight urban warfare and perform lightning strikes against potential dissident groups and secessionist movements? Sounds like one reason for Turkey to join the EU…

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