TURIN, Italy - The Iraqi war was a disaster for the US and its allies and had undermined support for democracy and secularism in the Islamic world, Nobel Prize-winning Turkish author Orhan Pamuk told Adnkronos International (AKI).
On a visit to Italy, Pamuk said the prestige of Western civilisation had been ruined by the 'horrors and injustice' of the war and it had poisoned relations between the Arab world and the US and its European allies.
"I think it is one of the major disasters in the last three or four decades, this war in Iraq. It's destroyed a peaceful approach in the Middle East towards democracy, towards human rights, western values and women's liberation," Pamuk told AKI.
He was visiting the northern city of Turin for a lecture organised by the Premio Grinzane Cavour, a prestigious Italian literary prize that he won in 2002.
Pamuk said Muslim countries were also suffering from simplistic perceptions in the West that associated Islam with terrorism, suicide killings and bombings.
"The common cliche is that Islam is a terrorist religon," he said. "It is upsetting for civilisation and serves only American military interests."
Addressing several hundred book lovers at the Palazzo Chiablese, he spoke about the historic role of the West in defining Turkey's identity - often to the country's shame.
Asked about the recent election of Turkey's Islamist-rooted president Abdullah Gul, he was cautiously optimistic.
“I don't know how Gul will behave when he is in power," Pamuk told Adnkronos. "I hope, as he said, that he defends freedom of speech, freedom, that is good. But I also expect him to defend secularism and we hope to see that."
Politics is dangerous territory for the 55-year-old author. In 2005 he faced criminal charges in Turkey for comments he made in a Swiss publication about the mass killings of Armenians and Kurds in 1915. The charges were later dropped.
"Politics happens to me, sometimes I get angry and tell the truth," Pamuk said, without referring to the incident. "Sometimes I am nervous about injustice, but essentially, spiritually, I am not a political man. Most of the time I am a man who falls into political situations."
Pamuk is one of Turkey's best selling authors and his books have been translated into more than 40 languages.
He has won many national and international literary awards including America's Pulitzer Prize. Last year he became the first Turkish writer to win the Nobel Prize – his crowning achievement - but one, he says, without any political obligations.
"It is the greatest distinction an author can achieve in his literary career -but it's that," he said. "I don't see any social connotation – I'm happy just like a child is happy with his ice cream. I am happy with my prize."