Turkey's objections to film remain peaceful
Protests about perceived insults against Islam have always been more restrained in Turkey compared with many other countries, an analyst says.
By Alakbar Raufoglu for SES Türkiye -- 20/09/12
Appalled by the deadly protests in Egypt, Libya and other Muslim countries against an anti-Islamic video deemed offensive to the Prophet Mohammed, political and religious leaders in Turkey have been effective in calling on their own followers to exercise restraint.
Protests against the film "Innocence of Muslims," deemed offensive to the Prophet Mohammed, have remained peaceful in Turkey. [Reuters]
"The film that insults Islam and the prophet is evil and provocative, but anyone who turns to violence is himself attempting to provoke Muslims," Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said. "We shall not fall in the trap of provocation. Those who resort to violence in return will themselves be considered provocateurs against Muslims; and we reject that."
An armed mob set fire to the US consulate in Benghazi on September 11th, killing Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and three other officials. Although protests broke out in at least 20 countries, in only a few, including Indonesia, Afghanistan, Tunisia, Egypt, Yemen and Morocco, did they turn violent.
More than 30 people have been killed worldwide, including 12 people who died in an attack by a female suicide bomber in Kabul on Tuesday (September 18th).
The US government had no connection with the film, "Innocence of Muslims," which was produced privately by a real estate developer.
In Ankara, protestors gathered twice outside the US Embassy, chanting slogans and burning a US flag, but the protests have been peaceful and security forces were not forced to engage the crowd.
For politicians in Ankara, such as Emrullah Isler, chairman of Turkish Group at the Organisation of the Islamic Conference's Parliamentary Union, violent demonstrations under the name of Islam "serves well" to the radical groups in the Islamic world.
"We should understand that the radical groups are looking for an excuse to demostrate their existence and spread their propoganda," Isler told SES Türkiye. "Insulting the prophet can never be justified, but even so, this cannot be a reason for terror."
Some religious leaders have also condemned of murderous fanaticism in the name of Islam.
Speaking to SES Türkiye, Mustafa Said Yazıcıoglu, a professor of religious studies and former head of the Presidency of Religious Affairs, said Muslims around the world should find a "civil way" to demonstrate their disagreement or fury on any provocations against their feelings.
"If these [protests] are all connected to the film that insults Islam and the prophet, they shouldn't be demonstrated on the streets, but in civil discussions, such as raising the topic in international organizations," said Yazıcıoglu, who was responsible for religious affairs in Erdogan's cabinet until last summer.
Turkey, he said, does everything possibile to be restrained against the film. "We see that people in the Arab counries are pouring to the streets under the name of peace, but causing more deaths. What is the logic behind it?" he said.
Gareth Jenkins, an Istanbul-based senior fellow at the Institute for Security and Development Policy's Turkey Initiative, said that protests about perceived insults against Islam have always been more restrained in Turkey compared with many other countries.
"It was the same when there were protests about the anti-Islamic cartoons," he said. "I don't think this means that radical Islamists in Turkey are necessarily less angry but they do seem to be able to exercise greater self-control and more able to distinguish between something happening in a country and the government of that country being responsible for it."
Protests in the past have somtimes turned violent. In 1993, 37 people were killed in Sivas when a mob of 10,000 people tried to lynch Aziz Nesin for translating the Satanic Verses, Salman Rushdie's story about the Prophet Mohammed that earned its author a death sentence.
"Turkey still has a major problem with religious intolerance," Jenkins said. "But traditionally the worst violence, such as at Sivas, has been directed against other Turkish nationals, not foreigners."
Yet, for most Turks there was very little time between them becoming aware of the latest film's existence and reading about US condemnation of it.
"Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan was also very quick to condemn both the film and the violence. So that probably helped as well," he said.