The rise of ISIS and other groups has left the entire region of the Middle East in smoking ruins with tens of thousands of innocent victims. So when the head of Egypt’s State Information Service Salah Abdel Sadek said at Cairo University that he had traced the source for such violence, many thought that they would hear a frank discussion of Islamic extremism. Yet, instead of Bin Laden and Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the culprit proved (at least in part) to be none of than Tom and Jerry.
Just when you thought that Turkey could not get more frightening under President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his Islamic parties, you get a story like this one. Turkish lawmakers were debating Erdogan’s effort to adopt an Islamic constitution and further increase his authoritarian powers. A member of the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) sought to quote Oscar Wilde when members of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) objected that they had no idea who Wilde is and thought he was quoting from the Oscar movie awards. When the meaning was made clear, these Erdogan drones objected that it was a reference from a Western source. Of course, as Wilde noted, “Education is an admirable thing, but it is well to remember from time to time that nothing that is worth knowing can be taught.”
In an example of how religious fervor can overwhelm basic judgment, the residents of a remote Indonesia village called Kalupapi recently discovered what they believed to be an “angel” on a beach. They described a being of “shining white, (with) round eyes with red eyebrows” that was naked, crying and only clothed in a white cloth after descending from the heavens. Police seized what they said was far from angelic: a sex toy that was tossed over the side of a boat.
We have followed the rapid decline of civil liberties under the authoritarian rule of Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in the past few years as well as his empowering of Islamic parties in the once secular state. When Erdogan first ran, he assured Turks that he was committed to the secular traditions and constitution of the country. He then did precisely the opposite in power by chipping away at secular laws, introducing Islamic governing principles, and assuming authoritarian power. Now,Turkish Parliament Speaker Ismail Kahraman has finally taken Erdogan’s policies to their natural conclusion and called for the dismantling of secular government and the creation of an Islamic state. Now, Erdogan is again saying “trust me” and, that secular values remain safe in his hand..
The slaughter of intellectuals and civil liberties advocates has continued in Bangladesh. A U.S. Embassy worker and editor of Bangladesh’s first LGBT magazine Xulhaz Mannan was one of two men hacked to death this week in what is believed to be the latest murders by Islamic extremists. We have been discussing the surge of Islamic extremism in Bangladesh, particularly targeting secular writers. Law student and secular writer Nazimuddin Samad, 26, was the sixth such victim recently. Then last week we had the murder of a popular professor.
Late Monday, the Brown family filed their appeal in the United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit in Brown v. Buhman, No. 14-4117. The Sisters Wives case raises core issues of free speech and free exercise — constitutional violations found by the trial court in striking down the Utah cohabitation law. This “en banc” petition is to the entire Tenth Circuit in seeking review of the recent panel decision vacating the earlier decision on standing grounds.
The Saudi Association for Civil and Political Rights is a respected organization established by intellectuals who seek to protect human rights in the Kingdom and the creation of both democratic and legal institutions that guarantee such rights. Not surprising, the Saudi government has treated such ideas as terroristic threats and has jailed many of its members. The latest is one of the founders Issa al-Hamid who was convicted of inciting people to breach public order, insulting the judiciary, defaming the kingdom’s senior religious clerics and establishing an unlicensed organization. Our close ally in the Middle East has once again shown how it stands in direct opposition to the most basic rights of free speech and free exercise. Rather than actually move its laws and government out of the Middle Ages, the Kingdom has hired a variety of top firms, including leading establishment figures like Tony Podesta, to improve its reputation with the American public (particularly with the expected release of the long withheld 9-11 reports pages that reportedly implicate Saudi officials in the attack.