What Unites Donald Trump And A Radical Muslim Theologian

Inflammatory speech, whether you're the Republican candidate for the White House or a Turkish professor of theology, should be held directly responsible for ensuing violence.

A global name
A global name
Ali Sirmen

ISTANBUL â€" In the wake of the ISIS-linked massacre in Orlando, the deadliest terror attack in the United States since Sep. 11, 2001, experts are trying to make sense of this and other similar "lone wolf" operations.

U.S. authorities believe it is more likely that the Orlando shooter Omar Mateen, who declared his allegiance to ISIS, was acting alone in the massacre rather than obeying any orders. Still, regardless of whether ISIS actually plans and organizes such acts of terrorism, the motivation is always the same: hatred and vendetta.

Right now, cases of this kind appear to be spreading rapidly. Those who murder for ISIS, declaring that the actions are done in the name of Islam, are spurred by some kind of cocktail of loathing and revenge. No less troubling is that these emotion-driven actions are appearing in all different contexts in every corner of the world.

It's high time we speak out not just against the attacks and the people who perpetrate them, but against all those who intensify the atmosphere of hate and encourage zealotry with their words. Such people, it's fair to say, are becoming accomplices to terrorists even if that is not their intention.

In this context, our attention turns to the Turkish preacher Mustafa AÅŸkar, who recently declared that, "People who don't pray are animals." He is one of these people who fuel terrorism.

Mustafa AÅŸkar â€" Photo: Sonmez Mehmett via Twitter

Askar's not just some uneducated person on the street. He's a professor in Ankara University’s theology department. His clout adds to the gravity of the situation. Who knows what this man teaches in the privacy of his classes. What type of organizations do people turn to in a society in which men like him are opinion leaders?

What's your question?

It is deeply troubling â€" and dangerous â€" that during a national television program about Ramadan someone thinks to ask the question, "Is it incumbent on Muslims to harm those who do not pray?"

In this tense environment we live in, words matter. That's because a carelessly spoken phrase can be interpreted in the worst ways possible at the most unexpected time and places, and can inevitably push a lost soul toward an act of terrorism.

At the same time, it is not enough to simply warn against those who falsely claim to speak in the name of Islam. We must also watch out for those driven by Islamophobia, who affront or ridicule Islam and are equally responsible for intensifying the atmosphere of hate and vendetta.

It doesn't matter where they are or what they believe: Those who use expressions of hate are comrades along the same path of destruction. In that sense, Donald Trump and Mustafa AÅŸkar are really not that different. The fact that one of them uses the jargon of zealotry and the other of imperialism doesn't change this truth.

Accordingly, no one can refute the statement, "Ultimately, they all have the same mindset as ISIS." With a spirit of vengeance rising everywhere, the truly innocent are ever harder to find.

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How Thailand's Lèse-Majesté Law Is Used To Stifle All Protest

Once meant to protect the royal family, the century-old law has become a tool for the military-led government in Bangkok to stamp out all dissent. A new report outlines the abuses.

Pro-Democracy protest at The Criminal Court in Bangkok, Thailand

Laura Valentina Cortés Sierra

"We need to reform the institution of the monarchy in Thailand. It is the root of the problem." Those words, from Thai student activist Juthatip Sirikan, are a clear expression of the growing youth-led movement that is challenging the legitimacy of the government and demanding deep political changes in the Southeast Asian nation. Yet those very same words could also send Sirikan to jail.

Thailand's Criminal Code 'Lèse-Majesté' Article 112 imposes jail terms for defaming, insulting, or threatening the monarchy, with sentences of three to 15 years. This law has been present in Thai politics since 1908, though applied sparingly, only when direct verbal or written attacks against members of the royal family.

But after the May 2014 military coup d'état, Thailand experienced the first wave of lèse-majesté arrests, prosecutions, and detentions of at least 127 individuals arrested in a much wider interpretation of the law.

The recent report 'Second Wave: The Return of Lèse-Majesté in Thailand', documents how the Thai government has "used and abused Article 112 of the Criminal Code to target pro-democracy activists and protesters in relation to their online political expression and participation in peaceful pro-democracy demonstrations."

Criticism of any 'royal project'

The investigation shows 124 individuals, including at least eight minors, have been charged with lèse-majesté between November 2020 and August 2021. Nineteen of them served jail time. The new wave of charges is cited as a response to the rising pro-democracy protests across Thailand over the past year.

Juthatip Sirikan explains that the law is now being applied in such a broad way that people are not allowed to question government budgets and expenditure if they have any relationship with the royal family, which stifles criticism of the most basic government decision-making since there are an estimated 5,000 ongoing "royal" projects. "Article 112 of lèse-majesté could be the key (factor) in Thailand's political problems" the young activist argues.

In 2020 the Move Forward opposition party questioned royal spending paid by government departments, including nearly 3 billion baht (89,874,174 USD) from the Defense Ministry and Thai police for royal security, and 7 billion baht budgeted for royal development projects, as well as 38 planes and helicopters for the monarchy. Previously, on June 16, 2018, it was revealed that Thailand's Crown Property Bureau transferred its entire portfolio to the new King Maha Vajiralongkorn.

photo of graffiti of 112 crossed out on sidewalk

Protestors In Bangkok Call For Political Prisoner Release

Peerapon Boonyakiat/SOPA Images via ZUMA Wire

Freedom of speech at stake

"Article 112 shuts down all freedom of speech in this country", says Sirikan. "Even the political parties fear to touch the subject, so it blocks most things. This country cannot move anywhere if we still have this law."

The student activist herself was charged with lèse-majesté in September 2020, after simply citing a list of public documents that refer to royal family expenditure. Sirikan comes from a family that has faced the consequences of decades of political repression. Her grandfather, Tiang Sirikhan was a journalist and politician who openly protested against Thailand's involvement in World War II. He was accused of being a Communist and abducted in 1952. According to Sirikhan's family, he was killed by the state.

The new report was conducted by The International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), Thai Lawyer for Human Rights (TLHR), and Internet Law Reform Dialogue (iLaw). It accuses Thai authorities of an increasingly broad interpretation of Article 112, to the point of "absurdity," including charges against people for criticizing the government's COVID-19 vaccine management, wearing crop tops, insulting the previous monarch, or quoting a United Nations statement about Article 112.

Juthatip Sirikan speaks in front of democracy monument.

Shift to social media

While in the past the Article was only used against people who spoke about the royals, it's now being used as an alibi for more general political repression — which has also spurred more open campaigning to abolish it. Sirikan recounts recent cases of police charging people for spreading paint near the picture of the king during a protest, or even just for having a picture of the king as phone wallpaper.

The more than a century-old law is now largely playing out online, where much of today's protest takes place in Thailand. Sirikan says people are willing to go further on social media to expose information such as how the king intervenes in politics and the monarchy's accumulation of wealth, information the mainstream media rarely reports on them.

Not surprisingly, however, social media is heavily monitored and the military is involved in Intelligence operations and cyber attacks against human rights defenders and critics of any kind. In October 2020, Twitter took down 926 accounts, linked to the army and the government, which promoted themselves and attacked political opposition, and this June, Google removed two Maps with pictures, names, and addresses, of more than 400 people who were accused of insulting the Thai monarchy. "They are trying to control the internet as well," Sirikan says. "They are trying to censor every content that they find a threat".

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