Thursday, September 18, 2008

Dawkins' Site Banned at Behest of Prominent Islamist

Another loss for Internet freedom . . .

From BIA-Net:
Istanbul’s Şişli 2nd Criminal Court of Peace has banned world famous evolutionist Prof. Richard Dawkins’ internet site ( in Turkey on the grounds that Adnan Oktar’s personality was violated by this site.

The court reached the decision to ban the site on September 3. The site was accused of containing insults against Oktar’s (known as Harun Yahya too) book titled “Atlas of Creation”.

The only explanation given to the viewer is “Shut down by court order”
The internet users who try to reach the site come across a statement saying that ‘The access to the site has been banned by court order’; no explanations about why, when and by which court order the site has been banned are given. Oktar had managed to shut down the Google Groups in Turkey before as well.

According to Yasemin Arpa from NTV, Oktar filed a lawsuit for the damages of mental anguish against Oxford professor biologist and thinker Richard Dawkins in the amount of 8000 YTL (about 4000 Euro). Dawkins' book The God Delusion is a best-seller in Turkey.
The ban of Dawkíns' site is facilitated by a law passed in May that allows individuals to petition courts to have websites shut down. The law is heavily protested by rights activists, and is likely to continue to be a serious issue. The May law also created the Telecommunications Directorate, through which the government is allowed to shut down websites without a court order. Other law passed in November requires ISP's to catalogue the Internet activities of their customers for one year.

Interestingly, many cases of Internet censorship consist of banning content offensive to secularists/nationalists. In the Dawkins case, the offensive content is evolutionist, and while Dawkins is an extremely controversial figure inside Turkey, it is significant that Islamists are using the new censorship laws to further their political agenda. Use of such laws by rigid secularist and Kemalist groups does not fit with the government's stated objective of expanding freedom for a variety of views and lifestyles.

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