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"God Delusion" publisher may face prosecution

ISTANBUL (Reuters) - The publisher of the Turkish edition of Richard Dawkins’ bestseller “The God Delusion” could face prosecution after a complaint that it insulted believers.

A reader of the atheist manifesto had complained that it was insulting to Muslims, Christians and Jews, publisher Erol Karaaslan said after speaking to the prosecutor on Thursday.

“A Turkish citizen complained, saying that this book was hurtful to members of religions living in Turkey, and wanted the book banned and the publishers punished,” Karaaslan told Reuters.

His company Kuzey Publications has printed 6,000 copies of the Oxford biologist’s book, adding to some 30 foreign editions of what has become a bestseller in the United States, Britain, Germany and Italy.

Turkey is officially secular but religious issues remain highly sensitive in the overwhelmingly Muslim country, which is also home to small, historic Christian and Jewish communities.

Writers and publishers are regularly investigated and prosecuted in Turkey under laws restricting freedom of expression.

The European Union, which Turkey wants to join, has urged Ankara to ease those restrictions and in particular to scrap or amend article 301 of its penal code, which makes it a criminal offence to “insult Turkishness”.

That controversial law was used in an unsuccessful prosecution of Nobel Prize-winning novelist Orhan Pamuk.


Karaaslan said the prosecutor had not yet opened a case but was looking into whether to press charges under a law against “stirring hatred among people”.

The publisher said he had requested time to prepare a written defence and was now seeking a lawyer.

In the most strongly worded chapter of “The God Delusion”, the expert on Darwinian evolution attacks the custom of assuming children share the religions of their parents before they are old enough to think for themselves. He calls it “child abuse”.

Opinion surveys have shown much higher levels of religious belief in Turkey than in most European countries.

The surveys also show many Turks reject Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution and accept a traditional religious account of creation. Turkey placed last in one survey of public acceptance of evolution in 34 countries --- just behind the United States.

Like the Bible, the Koran says God made the world in six days and fashioned the first man, Adam, from dust.

Editing by Keith Weir