Wednesday, January 15, 2003

Rod Dreher asks

Turkish authorities are investigating a Catholic priest who baptized
a Muslim who later turned on him. According to the news organization
Zenit, Turkish authorities have seized the Capuchin's passport...Can
anybody imagine the government of any historically Christian EU
member state putting an imam under investigation for receiving a
Christian into the Muslim faith?

to which the answer is: of course. Throughout the lands of the Eastern Empire, through the areas governed either by Islam or by Orthodox Christianity, the traditional understanding of freedom of religion for those not of the dominant faith is: you may believe (though we'd rather you didn't), you may practice (under severe constraints), but you may not attempt to convert a member of the dominant faith. Proseletyzation, apostasy, and conversion have all been deeply frowned upon from Russia to Greece to Muslim India to Indonesia. Greece's statute, overturned by the European Court of Human Rights in 1993, prohibited anyone who was not Greek Orthodox from speaking about their beliefs to anyone who was. [Kokkinakis v. Greece (25 May 1993), Strasbourg 3/1992/348/421 (Eur. Ct. H.R.)]

In Turkey this inheritance is mixed together with the Ataturkish legacy of hostility to all religion. In any event, Greece was admitted to the EU, despite its Byzantine tradition of suppression of religious liberty; then the ECHR struck the laws down. If there's a civilizational breaking point between tolerant west and intolerant east, then Bosporus is the wrong place to draw it; and several states that lie on Turkey's side of the line are now officially in the queue (in addition to one, Greece, that's already a member).

Turkey has plenty of genuine human rights problems; but we should avoid making them seem unique, or overlooking the fact that some EU states have had to change rather a lot, or exaggerating the differences between Turkey and its neighbors to the west.

[Compare religious freedom in contemporary Russia.)

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