On January 16, Muslims in Istanbul’s devout Fatih district went to the mosque for their usual Friday prayers. Before crowds appeared in front of the mosque, everything looked normal. It was going to be just another day of quiet prayers. But this time, mosque-goers gathered earlier than the usual hour. They were there to hold funeral services (in absentia) for the terrorists who perpetrated the murderous attack on Charlie Hebdo in Paris — the Kouachi brothers. Then the worshippers at the mosque held a demonstration with a banner and placards:
- “If freedom of expression has no limits, be prepared for our freedom to commit actions with no limits.”
- “We are threatening (you)! Do you dare?”
- “We are all Kouachi” (in what appears like the Turkish response to the Charlie Hebdoslogan ‘Je suis Charlie’)
In a similar eulogy, members of the Aczmendi Lodge in Istanbul conducted funeral prayers for the Kouachi brothers and praised them as “martyrs.” And a billboard in the eastern town of Tatvan read: “Salute to the Kouachi brothers who avenged the Messenger of Allah. May Allah accept your martyrdom.”
All of which prompted prominent Turkish columnist Anmet Hakan to ask in the daily, Hurriyet: “Are Muslims who are killed by other Muslims the orphans of the Muslim world?” He was curious why the articles of the Turkish Penal Code that regulate “praising crime and criminals” were never applied to Islamist protesters while Turkish prosecutors, citing the same article, have the habit of indicting thousands of other individuals. Good question. But it will most likely remain unanswered. Forever.
The fact is, Turkey’s ruling Islamists and their judges probably do not view the Kouachi brothers as people whose praise should amount to offence on the basis of praising criminals. On a de facto basis, perhaps, the Kouachi brothers are not even viewed as criminals. But that should not come as a surprise for a country whose prime minister has just offered a red-carpet welcome ceremony to Khaled Mashaal, head of Hamas’ political bureau.