Turkey and the EU: The approaching crisis – which way will Turkey go?
This week Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and German Chancellor Angela Merkel met at a UN human rights conference in Turkey. After holding a meeting with the Turkish President Chancellor Merkel told reporters that she had expressed concern over Turkey’s creeping violations of human rights and told Mr Erdogan that the visa free travel aspect of the EU-Turkey migrant deal could not go ahead unless Turkey reformed aspects of its anti-terror laws in the next few weeks so that journalists, academics and political opponents are no longer arrested for “terror offences”.
However, following the meeting the Turkish President’s office issued a statement saying that Mrs Merkel had “agreed to take Turkey’s sensitivities and priorities in the fight against terrorism into consideration” and emphasised that Turkey ”will not compromise in the fight against terrorism.” Terrorism is a term the Turkish government uses to refer to both its fight against Islamic State and Kurdish separatists.
The meeting with Mrs Merkel happened hard on the heels of a vote last Friday in the Turkish parliament, which is dominated by President Erdogan’s AK Party, to lift the legal immunity of MPs from prosecution. In effect, it allows MPs from opposition parties to be charged with insulting the President if they voice criticism, while MPs from the Pro-Kurdish opposition party, the HDP could be charged with terrorism offences.
Mrs Merkel was the only G7 leader to attend the human rights summit, which some major aid agencies also refused to attend due to Turkey’s record on human rights. Mrs Merkel commented: “naturally some developments in Turkey are causing us grave concerns” before adding “of course there are mutual dependencies, which you could also call a necessity to reconcile interests.”
Comment: Relations between the EU and Turkey are now heading for a crisis. In order to secure a deal to stem the huge flow of migrants heading towards Europe, Turkey has been offered a range of very substantial sweetners. These include the prospect of visa free travel for Turkish citizens within the EU and fast track accession to join the EU with a grant of four and half billion Euros to help Turkey meet the conditions for EU membership. Yet, far from moving towards democracy, the rule of law and respect for fundamental human rights as it is required to in order to join the EU, Turkey is simply taking the money, but moving in the opposite direction under its Islamist authoritarian president.
Yet the EU is also being somewhat disingenuous. On the one hand it is holding out the prospect to Turkey of joining the EU in the not too distant future, while on the other hand, both EU bureaucrats and heads of states are saying to people in existing EU countries that there is no realistic possibility of Turkey joining the EU in the foreseeable future. Only last week, the UK Prime Minister, who is leading a campaign to keep the UK in the EU, said that at the current rate of progress Turkey would not be allowed to join until “the year 3000”.
Both sides are by their actions exacerbating a tension which could have very serious long term implications both for Turkey, the EU and the Middle East. Turkey, whose 75 million population is 99% Muslim geographically straddles Europe and Asia. Politically, prior to Erdogan coming to power, it was leaning towards the Europe and is a long standing member of NATO. Yet, under Mr Erdogan’s Islamist leadership it is now looking eastwards, in particular it is seeking to reassert Turkey’s historic claim to leadership of the Islamic world.
Thus, two possible scenarios emerge, both of which the EU needs to avoid at all costs, but which at the moment it appears to have no strategy to avoid.
First, Turkey is able to use the migrant deal to persuade the EU to quietly ignore its human rights standards and allow it to join the EU. With 75 million citizens, it would then be the largest EU country and consequently have the largest voting power. Its Islamist and authoritarian values would inevitably influence EU decision making.
Secondly, if ordinary people in Turkey realise that they are not going to be allowed to join the EU in the foreseeable future, the expectations that have been raised could push it in the opposite direction. That is a direction that President Erdogan is already taking it in, yet the popular distrust that could be engendered by the EU appearing to deny Turkish citizens what they believe they have been promised would give President Erdogan the excuse he needs to further islamise Turkey. As we recently reported, the speaker of Turkey’s parliament, a senior member of President Erdogan’s AK Party, appears to have let the cat out of the bag as far as the AK Party’s agenda is concerned, by calling for Turkey to have an Islamic, rather than secular constitution.
Add to this mix the fact that the Turkish intelligence agency has long had what can at best be described as an ambiguous relationship with jihadist groups in Syria. Earlier this month two journalists were jailed for reporting state secrets after revealing that Turkish intelligence was shipping arms to fighters in Syria, almost certainly those fighting against Kurdish forces – who are themselves of course fighting against Islamic State. In a further development last week another journalist was legally deprived of her right to be a mother after reporting on that court case.
If Turkey were to openly side with any of the jihadist groups in Syria it would provoke a crisis within NATO as to whether Turkey could continue to be a member, which would itself almost inevitably push Turkey further towards becoming an Islamic State and make the plight of Turkey’s Christians and ethnic minorities even worse than they presently are.
As we have argued before, the tipping point that could conceivably determine which way Turkey slides could come next week when the Bundestag (German parliament) votes to recognise the Armenian genocide. The ruling coalition is thought to support this move, which is long overdue, but on past form Turkey will almost certainly overreact, recall its ambassador - as it did five years ago when the French parliament passed a law criminalising denial of the genocide - and probably cancel the migrant deal. Such a move would undoubtedly be popular in Turkey and increase support for President Erdogan.
At the moment, though EU politicians seem blissfully unaware of this, with German Foreign Affairs Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier telling German newspaper Der Tagesspiegel that, "I hope that the German-Turkish relationship will not be burdened by the resolution and we can continue to work well together."
The EU urgently needs to recognise the danger and find a way through this that makes Turkey live up to its human rights commitments, including to its Christian minority, face up to its past as Germany has done, while at the same time not galvanise support in Turkey behind President Erdogan’s Islamist ambitions.
UK: CEO of RCM defiant despite protests from midwives over abortion
The CEO of the Royal College of Midwives Professor Cathy Warwick has trenchantly defended her actions after leaving midwives furious as reported last week after unilaterally signing them up to a campaign for complete legalisation of abortion up to the time of birth. This is despite 35,000 people signing a petition demanding a rethink and hundreds of midwives signing a public letter of protest.
In an interview with the Daily Telegraph Professor Warwick insisted there would be no going back on the policy and suggested that only a small minority of midwives opposed her. In language that many midwives will find both offensive and disturbing, she went on to claim that abortion was “part” of the role of a midwife and said midwives should “deal with the rough and the smooth” rather than simply enjoying the “wonder and astonishment” of bringing healthy babies into the world.
Professor Warwick claimed that the “rights and wrongs” of abortion should not be a consideration for midwives and that abortion should be viewed as part of the “family planning jigsaw”. Asked if there were any situations in which an abortion could be seen as “wrong”? she replied “Well, I would say no.”
She is equally emphatic that the only consideration is the rights of the woman - the “right” of the unborn child does not come into it. “The woman is the person who has rights within the framework that we currently practise in and I think we have to focus on the woman.”
She justified her unilateral decision to sign the RCM up to a campaign calling for complete legalisation of abortion without consulting either the RCM’s board or members on the grounds that it fitted the RCM’s policy of supporting “choice” for women.
Comment: It is worthwhile briefly dissecting Professor Warwick’s comments here. In essence what she is saying is: 1. There are no moral absolutes 2. The only consideration is “choice” for the mother i.e. an existentialist worldview 3. Abortion should be seen as part of the family planning process i.e. a method of birth control 4. The unborn child has no rights 5. Professional ethics should not play a role in midwifery.
However, we must add a caveat to the first part of Professor Warwick’s belief system – that there are no moral absolutes. This is that Professor Warwick has herself stated a moral absolute – her belief that abortion is “never” wrong. The views Professor Warwick has set out are common among radical feminists, who assert that the only thing that matters is the woman’s rights. They are in fact views that other feminists have openly stated they find disturbing: The Times columnist Libby Purves observed:
“This is heavy-duty, industrial-grade, armour-plated feminism: not the thoughtful, delicate balance of human rights that many of us struggle with day by day…Removal of the 24-week limit places the wishes and lives of women as pre-eminent and unquestioned, even when the child they conceived and are bearing has grown for long enough to emerge to a good life, whether with its birth mother or through adoption.
… there is something dismayingly ruthless about Professor Warwick’s shrugging attitude that women’s rights, choices, even whims are paramount when the foetus is viable. Even more so is the view that her members should regard terminations, even the most brutal and late ones, as part of the job and not soppily prefer the “wonder and astonishment” of birth. If I were a midwife I would be pretty insulted by that implication: they get plenty of the rough stuff already with stillbirths, alarming deformities, foetal alcohol syndrome and maternal grief and mortality. They need, emotionally and professionally, to be on the side of survival.”
What we have here is another example of a senior public figure seeking to impose their own rather extreme liberal humanist beliefs on wider society, despite the public being at least broadly opposed to their views.
Canada: Liberal Humanist elite seek to impose Euthanasia without proper democratic debate
On May 30th, the Canadian Parliament will vote on Bill C-14, tabled to provide a legal framework for assisted dying and potentially euthanasia in Canada. There have been several attempts in parliament to legalise assisted suicide in the past, but all have failed. Now the government is using the excuse of a Supreme Court ruling to rush through legalisation of the practice without proper parliamentary debate. Last year the Supreme Court (Carter v Canada) ruled that laws making assisting suicide illegal were incompatible with Canada’s Charter of Rights. The government then set up the External Panel on Options for a Legislative Response to Carter v. Canada along with a public consultation. Its remit was purely to look at options as to how the government might respond. However, since President Justin Trudeau’s Liberal government came to power last October, ministers have removed this remit and introduced bill C-14 instead, which legalises assisted suicide and critics fear will legalise euthanasia as well.
Not only does the bill not make a clear distinction between assisted suicide and euthanasia, as it stands it also fails to include a conscience clause, meaning that it would create a legal right for people to demand that the state assist them to kill themselves, with doctors and other health care professionals having no right to refuse. The bill was rushed through both its first and second readings in Canada’s House of Commons without proper debate – and now has its third reading on May 30th, with the government then trying to get the entire law passed by the Senate by June 6th.
Comment: Similar bills to this have been defeated by the Canadian parliament before. Yet, what is different here is that unelected judges in the Supreme Court have decided that a law passed by the Canadian parliament breaches human rights and therefore must be changed. This raises a number of enormously important issues.
First, on what basis are judges making these decisions? Theoretically at least it is on the basis of Canada’s Charter of Rights, but generalised statements like this require judicial interpretation. In other words, the judges’ worldview and belief system can have a significant influence. In one respect, that has always been the case, Canada inherited a common law system where judges made ethical decisions on areas not covered by existing law.
However, what is different here is that whilst common law judgements could always be overruled by parliament passing a new piece of legislation, here the opposite is true. The Supreme Court judges can in effect challenge the validity of parliamentary laws – as they have done here. That situation allows unelected judges with secular liberal humanist beliefs to impose those beliefs on wider society against the wishes of parliament.
This distinction is enormously important. In fact, it is what distinguishes a common law system from legal systems based on shari’a. In the latter, as for example in Pakistan, the national shari’a court can strike down any parliamentary law it deems incompatible with the principles of shari’a. In other words shari’a judges can impose their worldview and beliefs on wider society regardless of the will of a democratically elected parliament. We now have a similar problem in Canada whereby Supreme Court judges with secular liberal humanist views can impose them on wider society – regardless of the will of a democratically elected parliament.
That problem is not confined to Canada, it also exists in the USA and Europe. However, as can be seen in this case it can lead to a significant threat to freedom of conscience for Christians and others who hold human life to be sacred.
Secondly, the actions of the Canadian government in rushing this very badly worded and wide-ranging law through parliament without proper debate, similarly undermine democracy. As Canada Free Press observes in an excellent critique of the bill, the government could have responded to the Supreme Court judgement simply by clarifying the purpose of the law criminalising assisting suicide. Instead, what we are seeing is an attempt by a secular liberal humanist elite to enforce their worldview and beliefs on wider society without proper debate.
Australia: Attempts to create a genderless society and suppress freedom of conscience
Simmering beneath the surface of the Australian election campaign is the issue of whether the state should promote a redefinition of both marriage and sexuality. Former Liberal Premier Tony Abbott agreed to hold a referendum on whether marriage should be redefined to include same–sex couples, a pledge which has been maintained by Malcolm Turnbull who ousted him from leadership of the Liberal Party last September. However, in the federal election campaign which is currently happening the LGBT group campaigning for the redefinition of marriage has called for the referendum to be cancelled with parliament simply legalising same sex marriage, a stance that has also been adopted by the opposition Labor Party.
A further issue that has hit the headlines has been a government funded programme run by the “Safe schools coalition” which purports to be a campaign against homophobic bullying, but produces teaching resources for schools that, for example, ask children to plot “who you like” at some point on a line with female on the left and male on the right, before introducing the terms: lesbian. gay, bisexual, straight, queer and pansexual. In March the Turnbull government made clear it would withdraw federal funding unless significant changes were made, including requiring parental consent for student participation. However, the state government of Victoria has now agreed to entirely fund the programme.
Comment: There are several issues of concern here. First, not only is this part of a worldwide strategy to redefine a social institution that has been the foundation stone of family life since time began, there is an attempt to deny ordinary people a say in this. The Australian people were promised that there would be a plebiscite (referendum) after the federal elections, now there is a campaign to deny them that say. This is despite the fact that opinion polls published in the press have suggested that the campaign for redefinition is currently more popular. The attempt to enforce this no matter what, is also illustrated by the position adopted by the Australian Labor Party last summer, which decided to allow its MPs a conscience vote on this issue – but only until 2019, after which they would be required to vote for it. In other words, tolerance and freedom of conscience will cease to exist in three years’ time.
Secondly, what we are seeing is a new social liberal consensus across the party political spectrum. Former Liberal Party leader John Howard, arguably one of Australia’s greatest Prime Ministers (1996-2007) amended the Marriage Act to specifically define marriage as being between a man and a woman to the exclusion of all others (i.e. excluding both same-sex relationships and polygamy). Yet, Malcolm Turnbull, the recently installed Liberal Prime Minister is an advocate of redefining marriage to include same-sex couples. This new social liberal consensus was not always the case. Australia’s post-war Labour Prime Minister, Ben Chifley very much saw the Labor Party as an outworking of his Christian faith and until recently social conservativism, including support for traditional marriage was a mainstream value of the Australian Liberal Party. Yet, now many politicians want to impose socially liberal values on wider society for purely ideological reasons, without evidence of the impact of these on family life and regardless of the erosion of historic freedoms such as freedom of conscience and freedom of religion.
Thirdly, the ideology behind some of these moves, particularly the teaching material produced by the Safe schools coalition has raised concerns even among some gay rights advocates. For example, in the last fortnight Cate McGregor one of Australia’s most prominent LGBT advocates has raised serious concerns about the Safe schools coalition teaching children that people are “genderless”, describing this as “a derivative of Queer Theory” and “a blind alley”. (NB ‘Queer Theory developed as an offshoot of radical feminism in the 1990s and argues that people should form and choose their own individual identities regardless of their biology – this is also the thinking behind the issue we reported last week concerning the Obama administration’s attempt to force schools to allow boys free access to girls changing rooms and toilets if they claim to be transgender).
Canada: Hizb ut Tahrir conference reveals strategy to partner with non-Muslims to gain power
Last Saturday Hizb ut Tahrir held a major conference in Ontario. The group has been strongly linked to formenting hatred of non Muslims, particularly Jews, and whilst claiming to be non violent is widely viewed as a conveyor belt from which extremists move on to terrorism. Yet, governments in the western world have found it difficult to ban the organisation because, publicly at least, it gives the appearance of non-violence, while rejecting fundamental western values such as democracy and human rights.
The Toronto conference gives an insight into the thinking and strategy of Islamists who claim to be non-violent. Like Islamic State Hizb-ut-Tahrir aims at the establishment of a global Islamic caliphate, at the front of the conference was a black flag which closely resembled the IS flag, though without the white circle. An undercover journalist reporting on the conference talked to an attendee who turned out to be the mother of one of the organisers. She had lived in Canada for 40 years. She asked her about the disconnect between enjoying 40 years of democracy, yet trying to end it, mentioning a book published by Hizb-ut-Tahrir entitled Democracy is Infidelity: its use, application and promotion are prohibited:
“The women said she was not qualified to debate the topic, but that democracy had done nothing good for people, so she and other believers would follow the rule of Allah. Reflecting on the Muslim Brotherhood's year in power in Egypt, I asked if she were prepared to have a dictator claim to be Allah's spokesman even if he abused the power. She said she had never thought about it like that, but, again, that she was not qualified to debate the topic.”
The first speaker at the conference emphasised that it is an obligation for Muslims to fulfil Allah’s demands to create an Islamic state, stressing that it is "not permissible for us to choose " citing Q33:36:
"It is not for a believing man or a believing woman, when Allah and His Messenger have decided a matter, that they should [thereafter] have any choice about their affair.”
before focusing on two pillars for advancing the Islamic state:
- Winning the public's hearts and minds; and
- Partnering with people of power
Both of which he illustrated from the example of Muhammad, where he had allied himself with non-Muslims in order to gain political power.
Comment: Although Hizb ut Tahrir are widely and rightly regarded as extremists, their paradigm, including following Muhammad’s example, of temporarily using non-Muslims to gain power is in fact one that is pursued by most non-violent Islamists. That is why the refusal of political correctness to criticise or even ask questions of Islamist groups is so dangerous. It has allowed the development of situations such as the infiltration of some political parties in the West, support for anti-Semitism within them and the persecution of Christian refugees in European asylum centres by Islamists.