Originally published under the title "Our Traditional Family Values."
Having condemned —endless times, and rightly so— past secular governments' social engineering attempts in the Old Turkey, calling them illiberal, Turkey's Islamists are perfecting conservative social engineering in their virtual New Turkey. In fact, the Islamists were not against ANY social engineering. They were just against secular social engineering; conservative social engineering is fine.
In its latest effort, the government threatens, with unspecified sanctions, newspapers, broadcasters and even social media that do not conform to "traditional family values." In the official wording: "Measures will be taken to ensure that visual, aural and social media, news, tabloids, films and similar types of productions conform to our traditional family values."
This columnist has argued, from 2011, that the idea that Turkey could set a democratic precedent for the "awakening" Arab Spring was not realistic. In reality, the Arab Spring seems to have set a precedent for Turkey.
It is deeply problematic that the state intends to punish any media product that does not conform to 'traditional family values.'
From a democratic point of view, it is deeply problematic that the state, with its police power, declares that it will punish any media product that does not conform to "our traditional family values." In democracies, it is not the government's duty to punish what is against traditional family values or support what is not. What's next in Turkey? A ministry in charge of determining what constitutes traditional family values?
A 2014 PEW research, "Global Views on Morality," found what is morally unacceptable to the Turks. Extramarital affairs: 94 percent; premarital sex: 91 percent; gambling: 80 percent; homosexuality: 78 percent; alcohol use: 69 percent; abortion: 52 percent. Murder? Official statistics show that there were four murders per day in Turkey in 2015. Does murder, then, conform to "our traditional family values?"
Take gambling, for instance. A couple of years ago, the Religious Affairs Directorate issued a fatwa that declared all sport betting games and the national lottery as sinning "because they all constitute gambling."
In 2012, betting and lottery industry in Turkey totaled over 11 billion Turkish liras. Since 80 percent of Turks are against gambling, Turkey is probably visited by millions of aliens every year who play betting games and the lottery. It must be the same visiting aliens who consumed 1.077 billion liters of alcohol in 2014. It's funny, too, that some of the levies on state-organized gambling finance arms programs through a fund.
Fortunately, there are no credible/official statistics on extramarital affairs, premarital sex, and homosexuality – all the other sins that Turks do not morally accept (but sometimes practice). Those numbers could have been embarrassing.
History is full of sad, unsuccessful stories of ethnic or religious perfectionism that ended up in the political wastebasket.
The history of the world is full of sad, unsuccessful stories of ethnic or religious perfectionism that ended up in the political wastebasket. The Turkish government's latest attempt to teach morals to the nation will remain a futile attempt.
Ankara should have learned from Iran where, thanks to the Islamic rule, all Quranic evil tends to disappear and all Quranic good proudly prevails.
All the same, things are not as pure as the Islamist puritans may wish. In Tehran, drugs are prevalent, as Iran has one of the highest rates of drug addiction in the world. In 2013, the United Nations estimated that roughly 2.2 percent of Iranian adults are hooked on drugs, the highest rate in the world. In 2014, Interior Minister Abdolreza Rahmani Fazli announced some 6 million Iranians are affected by problems related to drug addiction.
Iran's own youth is not happy with Islamic purity. According to an InterMedia Young Publics poll released in 2013, one-third of those aged between 16 and 25 said they would abandon the Islamic Republic if given the option. Iran's parliamentary research department found that 80 percent of unmarried females, including secondary-school pupils, had boyfriends. The department also discovered that 17 percent of the 142,000 students who were surveyed said they were in fact homosexual.
The figures were quite revealing, but there was more. The Islamic Republic is also notorious for its prospering sex industry that is religiously purified through an ancient practice in Shia Islam, sigheh, a much deprecated temporary marriage that can last an hour or a decade.
Perhaps the Turks should think twice before they impose purity by state police power.
Burak Bekdil is an Ankara-based columnist for the Turkish newspaper Hürriyet Daily News and a fellow at the Middle East Forum.