Turkey’s religious freedom rank splits panel

March 27, 2012

The Blue Mosque in Istanbul (Valentina Pasquali /FOR THE WASHINGTON POST)

Take the recent move by the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, to designate NATO ally Turkey as a “country of particular concern” (CPC) — putting Turkey on a par with serious l malefactors Burma, China, North Korea, Sudan, Uzbekistan and the other usual suspects.

The nine-member, bipartisan commission originally split 5-4 to give Turkey that status. But then one of the five-member majority, Don Argue, former president of the National Association of Evangelicals, switched — apparently too late to meet a March deadline set by commission chairman Leonard Leo, executive vice president of the Federalist Society.

The tiny (budget $3 million, staff of about 20) advisory panel has long been, as our colleague Michelle Boorstein noted, “rife . . . with ideology and tribalism” and oft-accused of an anti-Muslim bias. (And the members are not even paid.)

The annual report usually comes out at the end of April but was released March 20 because five commissioners’ terms were expiring March 21, which would leave the panel without a quorum.

The five majority/dissenters issued a statement saying that, even so, there was “ample time to reflect” Argue’s changed vote and keep Turkey’s lesser “watch” designation, as opposed to a CPC designation.

Those on the “watch” list include India, Russia, Venezuela and Cuba, which is now hosting Pope Benedict XVI; the pontiff is drawing huge crowds to Masses around the country, including one attended by Fidel Castro’s brother, Raul, the president.

Well, at least the Cubans let the pope in. Better than the Chinese and Vietnamese.

Al Kamen, an award-winning columnist on the national staff of The Washington Post, created the “In the Loop” column in 1993.
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