He provided the comments in response to the growing controversy surrounding the YouTube movie, “Innocence of Muslims,” allegedly made by an Egyptian living in the United States.
Attorney, writer and independent foreign policy analyst Andrew Harrod said Erdogan’s statement is illogical because he is comparing prejudice against an ethnic group or race with prejudice against a group for holding to a specific set of beliefs.
“This is an absurd proposition. Intellectual claims simply have no boundaries, such that conflicting ideas demand testing in order to determine which one is right,” Harrod said.
Harrod added that others, including Jihad Watch Director Robert Spencer, have observed that the American-made film is the pretext for a coordinated campaign to pressure free societies on issues such as freedom of speech in the name of criticizing Islam.
“Leaders like Erdogan are trying to put a logical, pro-Western face on their campaign to suppress speech, and thus are making various arguments to make their agenda sound like an advancement of human rights,” Harrod said.
ACLJ International Director Tiffany Barrans said Turkey is one of the leaders in a move to get international bodies to adopt a Pakistan-like law prohibiting the criticism of Islam.
“Turkey is among a number of countries, including Pakistan and Indonesia, that will likely continue to push for the creation of a new international law limiting one’s right to freely speak should that speech somehow defame or insult a religious theology,” Barrans said.
Raymond Ibrahim, Middle East analyst and fellow with the Middle East Forum, said Erdogan is following a familiar script among Middle East leaders.
“Erdogan is basically doing what other Muslim leaders do: talk about what the West ‘needs’ to do, followed by much illogical talk,” Ibrahim said.
“For example, the assertion ‘Freedom of thought and belief ends where the freedom of thought and belief of others start.’ In fact, the one civilization that finds it especially difficult to live up to this assertion is Islam, which habitually encroaches on the freedom of thought and belief of others,” Ibrahim said.
Erdogan and other Muslim leaders, he said, are “banking on the idea that the softer and more naive elements of the West will fall for such talk.”
Harrod said that the film is an excellent attention-getting device to push the Islamic agenda.
“Leftist multicultural elements around the world might buy into this, and thereby enervate the free societies of the world,” Harrod said.
Barrans said that, ironically, laws prohibiting some forms of religious speech usually hurt the people they were allegedly designed to protect.
“International human rights standards derive from the inherent dignity of humankind as individuals. What is clear is that these blasphemy laws are extremely troubling by placing minorities – those whom human rights laws are designed to protect – at risk,” he said.
Barrans predicted the United Nations will be the venue for the debate.
“In light of the recent demonstrations and attacks in the name of Allah, it is likely that the United Nations will see a renewed push for [a] Defamation of Religions resolution,” Barrans said.
But he added that any move for a “defamation law” should be rejected.
“This push should be emphatically rejected by those who wish to preserve freedom of expression and open dialogue and debate about religion,” Barrans said. “All nations that respect religious freedom and freedom of expression should take a strong stance against any push for a Defamations of Religions resolution.
“A person’s right to freedom of expression, even expression that might be deemed offensive, is considered a ‘cornerstone right’ without which other rights fall into jeopardy,” Barrans said.
Islamic nations already for years have been pushing in the U.N. for a “Defamation of Religions” law that came out of an original plan by the Organization of the Islamic Cooperation for a “Defamation of Islam” law to crack down on criticism of that religion.
Jay Sekulow of the American Center for Law and Justice said it’s nothing “more than an effort to achieve special protections for Islam – a move to stifle religious speech.”
Critics of the idea say Muslim nations would simply use it as an endorsement of their attacks on Christians for statements as simple as their belief in the divinity of Jesus Christ, which Muslims consider an affront.
Turkey has become a stronger voice in the Middle East, and WND reported in September 2011 that Turkey was setting up a confrontation with Israel.
Analysts were warning the U.S. and Israel about the instability they see in Turkey, where Erdogan has called Israel the biggest impediment to Middle East peace. He has demanded Israel apologize for defending itself and has suggested his nation’s military might enable blockade runners to move against Israel’s weapons blockade of the Gaza Strip.
The American Enterprise Institute’s Middle East analyst, Michael Rubin, said Turkey’s actions and closer alignment with the Islamic world in recent days demonstrate that Turkey is not a good fit for the freedom-focused North Atlantic Treaty Organization, of which it is a member.
“While Turkey was an important Cold War ally, increasingly Turkey has become a liability to the United States and NATO,” Rubin said.
WND reported in March 2010 that former PLO operative turned Christian anti-terrorism analyst Walid Shoebat warned that Turkey was emerging as the world’s growing Islamic power.
Shoebat said the United States needs to be watching not Iran, Syria or even Hamas and Hezbollah as closely as it needs to follow the actions of the Islamic leaders of Turkey.
It was just a few months ago when Joseph Farah’s G2 Bulletin reported Turkey appeared to be seeking the restoration of the old Ottoman Empire.
The report said Turkey’s increasing lack of interest in the European Union combined with its efforts to re-establish its influence in Turkic countries of Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan and its outreaches to Russian, Syria and Iran were cause for concern.
Earlier this week, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon told reporters in New York that “free speech” has limits, especially when religious beliefs are involved.
Referencing the controversy over the movie, he said: “All of this freedom of expression should not be abused by individuals. … Some people abuse this freedom. This effort to provoke, to humiliate others by using (religious) beliefs cannot be protected in such a way.
“All human beings have inalienable rights, freedom of expression, freedom of assembly, but at the same time, freedom of expression should not be abused by individuals,” he said.
WND also reported when one of the world’s most influential Muslims began calling on the United Nations to impose international restrictions on free speech, criminalizing any statement that impugns Islam.
Sheik Abdullah Bin Bayyah, a professor at King Abdul Aziz University in Saudi Arabia, is a member of several international organizations, including the Centre for Studying the Aims of Shariah in the U.K. He also is the vice chairman of the International Union of Muslim Scholars.
The Royal Islamic Strategic Studies Centre ranked bin Bayyah No. 31 on its list of the 500 most influential Muslims in the world for 2011.
In a public declaration issued to several Islamic bodies, including the All Dulles Area Muslim Society, one of the largest Muslim mosques in the D.C. metro area and the U.S., bin Bayyah called upon “people of reason and understanding” to put a legal stop to statements that would offend Muslims and thereby threaten world peace.
“We ask everyone to ponder the ramifications of provoking the feelings of over one billion people by a small party of people who desire not to seek peace nor fraternity between members of humanity,” bin Bayyah wrote. “This poses a threat to world peace with no tangible benefit realized. Is it not necessary in today’s world for the United Nations to issue a resolution criminalizing the impingement of religious symbols? We request all religious and political authorities, as well as people of reason to join us in putting a stop to this futility that benefits no one.”