Saturday, December 24, 2011

France and Freedom of Speach

I’ve been gone for almost a month since my day job is in an end-year crunch to complete a raft of legislation here in Tajikistan.   As the holiday period approaches though, the rush by the government has abated.

The French lower house of parliament recently voted to make it a crime to deny that the Armenians suffered genocide during 1915 at the hands of the Ottomans.  The French should – but won’t – discuss the 1.7 million Algerians that were killed during their colonial war.  That’s ok as we all know that governments are hypocritical when it comes to their own history but are easily lured by the political advantage of condemning other nations or peoples. 
However, France and some other continental countries go further that simply expressing an opinion. They legislate against any other opinion that challenges their view.  Note to France (and Germany) – this is curbing the freedom of speech which you hold is one of the foundations of liberal democracy.  It is unique to France and such actions would never occur in the US or the UK.
There is no question that Turkey needs to move forward on its own to recognize the tragedy of 1915 – perpetrated by a different government in both form and substance.   It was clearly an attempt at ethnic cleansing – not genocide (as the word did not exist until recently).  The actions of the Ottomans need to be addressed between Armenia and Turkey and I humbly suggest that the comfortable Armenians in the United States and France keep their collective noses out of the issue.  I spent enough time in Armenia to know that many there would be able to resolve their differences in the region if they were permitted by the diaspora to do so.
And perhaps France and Germany should keep in mind that their great EU experiment is heading for catastrophe while Turkey is a rising power that should be courted, not rejected not least because its economy puts every EU member, except for Poland, to shame.

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