In Turkey, the Clash of Civilizations Continues

In academic and policymaking circles in the West, one hears a great deal about universal human rights. These rights, it is said, apply to everyone, everywhere; they are inherent in human nature. It’s an interesting idea. The problem is, not everyone agrees. That’s putting it mildly. Whole civilizations reject the Western conception of universal human rights, including, principally, freedom of expression and freedom of religion. We can tell ourselves that the conflict is temporary and superficial, that other civilizations are moving inexorably toward our understanding. We have international agreements! But much suggests the clash is profound and perduring.

Events in Turkey over the past weekend provide more evidence. On Saturday, 100,000 people gathered in the city of Diyarbakir to protest the publication of cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad in the French journal, Charlie Hebdo. One hundred thousand people – that’s hardly a fringe phenomenon. According to an account in a Turkish newspaper, speakers condemned the notion that freedom of expression extended to insults against the Prophet. Protesters held up placards with phrases such as “‘Damn those saying “I am Charlie,” and ‘May Charlie’s Devils not defame the Prophet.’”

These sentiments are not limited to the reaches of Anatolia. Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu personally expressed his support for the protesters. At a meeting of the ruling AKP party in Diyarbakir, he sent greetings to the protesters, to “each and every brother who defends the Prophet Muhammad here.” (Ironically, Davutoğlu represented Turkey at the solidarity rally in Paris the weekend after the Charlie Hebdo attacks).  And, on Sunday, a court in Ankara ordered Facebook to block users’ access to pages containing content deemed insulting to the Prophet. According to the New York Times, Facebook immediately complied.

Of course, not everyone in Turkey endorses these actions, but that’s not the point. Throughout the country, and in many other places across the globe, millions disagree, profoundly, with how the West understands things. They are not about to change their minds. We need to pay attention. The clash of civilizations continues.

Gorbachev & Ikeda, “Moral Lessons of the Twentieth Century: Gorbachev and Ikeda on Buddhism and Communism”

In March, I.B.Tauris will release “Moral Lessons of the Twentieth Century: Gorbachev and Ikeda on Buddhism and Communism” by Mikhail S. Gorbachev and Daisaku Ikeda (Soka Gakkai International). The publisher’s description follows:

Mikhail Gorbachev and Daisaku Ikeda are contemporaries raised in Unknowndifferent cultures: Gorbachev is a statesman whose origins are the Marx-inspired world of Communism while Ikeda is Buddhist inspired by the thirteenth-century Japanese sage, Nichiren. “Moral Lessons of the Twentieth Century” emerges from a series of conversations between these two men. Together they explore their experiences of life amidst the turmoil of the twentieth century and together they search for a common ethical basis for future development. Their wide-rangeing and often inspiring discussions take place in politics, economics, history, religion and spirituality, and epitomise the value of informed intercultural dialogue and reflection. They conclude that peace, progress and social justice can only be achieved through honest communication and cultural exchange. As the new century begins, they have sought to turn the spotlight on the challenges which face humanity.

“Religion and Human Rights: Global Challenges from Intercultural Perspectives” (Gräb & Wilhelm eds.)

In March, Walter De Gruyter Inc. will release “Religion and Human Rights: Global Challenges from Intercultural Perspectives” edited by Wilhelm Gräb (Humboldt University) and Lars  Charbonnier (Führungsakademie für Kirche und Diakonie gAG “Leadership Academy for Church and Diakonia”). The publisher’s description follows:

Current processes of globalization are challenging Human Rights and the attempts to institutionalize them in many ways. The question of the connection between religion and human rights is a crucial point here. The genealogy of the Human Rights is still a point of controversies in the academic discussion. Nevertheless, there is consensus that the Christian tradition – especially the doctrine that each human being is an image of God – played an important role within the emergence of the codification of the Human Rights in the period of enlightenment. It is also obvious that the struggle against the politics of apartheid in South Africa was strongly supported by initiatives of churchy and other religious groups referring to the Human Rights. Christian churches and other religious groups do still play an important role in the post-apartheid South Africa. They have a public voice concerning all the challenges with which the multiethnic and economically still deeply divided South African society is faced with. The reflections on these questions in the collected lectures and essays of this volume derive from an academic discourse between German and South African scholars that took place within the German-South African Year of Science 2012/13.