Life in even the most Western of honor societies

Muslims societies are honor based. While we may tie the concept of “saving face” to the Japanese, they’re pikers when it comes to the Muslims. That’s because Japanese, when they lose face, turn on themselves; Muslims turn on others (hence the prevalence of honor killings). This is true of even the most Westernized Islamic society — Turkey. Thus, it turns out that, in Turkey, you can be imprisoned for impugning “Turkishness.” (If we had a law like that in America, we’d have to turn all of Hollywood into a penal colony.)

The Turkishness law just got aired out again with the trial of Turkey’s most popular novelist, who had the temerity to write about the genocide the Turks committed against the Armenians in 1915. Fortunately, slightly calmer heads prevailed, and the court acquitted Elif Shafak:

A court in Istanbul has acquitted the best-selling Turkish novelist, Elif Shafak, who had been accused of insulting Turkish national identity.

Ms Shafak, 35, had faced charges for comments made by her characters on the mass killings of Armenians in the final years of the Ottoman Empire in 1915.

Turkey rejects Armenia’s claim that the killings constituted “genocide”.

The EU welcomed the court ruling, but urged Turkey to scrap a law that makes it a crime to insult “Turkishness”.

The trial was seen by the EU as a test of freedom of expression in Turkey, which began membership talks with the 25-member bloc last October.

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan also welcomed the verdict and signalled that the government would consider amending Article 301 of Turkey’s penal code. It envisages up to three years in jail for “denigrating Turkish national identity”.

***

The proceedings lasted just 40 minutes and ended in utter chaos, the BBC’s Sarah Rainsford reports.

The judges said they based their decision on lack of evidence to prove that Ms Shafak “denigrated Turkish national identity” in her novel, The Bastard Of Istanbul.

The only amusing thing about the above report is the EU’s anxious intercession on Shafak’s behalf. Right now in France, which is one of the EU’s major players, bloggers are being sued in a civil trial for having had the temerity to print the truth about a French TV station that knowingly aired false footage that sparked the Second Intifadah. The trial is going forward under a French law that allows someone who has been insulted to sue — and this is true, apparently, whether or not the insult was grounded in truth.

Telling the truth is a dangerous habit in honor societies that can’t bear the shame of their own conduct. Of course, I don’t advocate going the Howard Zinn route either, which would have a culture wallow endlessly in its sins, both real and imagined, without any acknowledgment whatsoever of its virtues. The best approach is moderation in all things, including cultural celebrations and accusations.

UPDATE (or, rather, CORRECTIONS): In a comment to this post, Richard Landes advised me that I got some facts wrong. I thought his corrections were detailed enough to deserve being spelled out here:

a) the French station (France2) did not knowingly air false footage. even if the correspondent Charles Enderlin knew, he didn’t tell his bosses (who were ashen-faced when they saw the rushes of the Palestinian cameraman who shot the “death” of al Durah;

b) the law explicitly says that if the comments were not made maliciously and they are accurate then even tho they are “defamation” no charges can be brought against the person uttering or writing them, hence the procureur advised dropping the charges “even tho what Karsenty had said was defamation” because he made a good case for his conclusions; and

c) they were not posted at blogs but in what i call the “proto-blogosphere,” the websites on the interneet where people, especially jews, went after the outbreak of the intifada to communicate the israeli point of view to whomever would listen, since the MSM — blinded by Pallywood — blocked them out almost entirely.

SECOND UPDATE, regarding point 1, above, which I belive is the most substantive correction and one that should be addressed. I know I’m thinking like a lawyer, but the fact that France2 was at first ignorant of Enderlin’s wrongful act doesn’t mean to me that France2 is innocent and has the right to bring suit on that ground. Enderlin was its agent so, under American/English common law at least, France2 is responsible for his conduct. Additionally, once it became clear that it had purveyed fake footage, I believe that France2 had a moral obligation to come clean in a loud, apologetic way. I have not heard evidence that France2 did so. If you know of such evidence, please let me know too.

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3 Responses

  1. this is an excellent and thoughtful post, and i am one who a) believes that until we understand the dynamics of honor-shame culture (and their alllergy to a free press) we can neither understand the arab world nor islamism, and b) that the french are the most honor-shame of all democratic cultures.

    but a couple of corrections to your post:

    a) the French station (France2) did not knowingly air false footage. even if the correspondent Charles Enderlin knew, he didn’t tell his bosses (who were ashen-faced when they saw the rushes of the Palestinian cameraman who shot the “death” of al Durah;

    b) the law explicitly says that if the comments were not made maliciously and they are accurate then even tho they are “defamation” no charges can be brought against the person uttering or writing them, hence the procureur advised dropping the charges “even tho what Karsenty had said was defamation” because he made a good case for his conclusions; and

    c) they were not posted at blogs but in what i call the “proto-blogosphere,” the websites on the interneet where people, especially jews, went after the outbreak of the intifada to communicate the israeli point of view to whomever would listen, since the MSM — blinded by Pallywood — blocked them out almost entirely.

  2. Neo Neocon made the point, or one of her commenters did, that the guy in charge at France2 trusted his cameraman who brought him the footage. When it was exposed that everything was a fake, the boss instead of taking responsibility for his action, circled the wagons because he didn’t want to feel any shame or recognize that his friend had betrayed him.

    So, no, they didn’t know that it was false in the beginning. But they sure as heck knew about it when they kept producing, airing, and defending the film.

  3. It’s funny how something written on the internet isn’t “libel” but defamation. Weird.

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