World famous musician Fazil Say put on trial in Turkey for “Insulting Religion” with a couple of tweets

Fazil Say, who has played with the New York Philharmonic, the Berlin Symphony Orchestra and others, was put on trial in Turkey … his crime? he does not believe superstitious nonsense.

So what exactly happened? The Guardian reports

for sending tweets that included one in April that joked about a call to prayer that lasted only 22 seconds.

Say tweeted: “Why such haste? Have you got a mistress waiting or a raki on the table?”

Least you wonder, Raki is a traditional alcoholic drink made with aniseed. Since Islam forbids alcohol many Islamists consider the remarks unacceptable, so they went after him. last June he was charged with inciting hatred and public enmity, and with insulting “religious values”. If found guilty he would face a maximum sentence of 18 months in prison. The trial has been adjourned until 18 February.

This case has caused considerable concern among many within Turkey and has also raised international concerns about Turkish freedom of speech. If they do indeed pursue stuff like this, then they can kiss their EU membership application a sweet goodbye.

What is perhaps encouraging is that on the day of his trial a couple of days ago, dozens of his supporters gathered outside the courthouse with banners, one of which called on the ruling Islamist-based AK Party to “leave the artists alone”.

Historically many within Turkey are Muslim, but Turkey has a tradition of being secular. What has changed is that the rise of the government of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, a chap who is a devout Muslim, appears to be putting that secularism at grave risk and many fear that Islam will be imposed

How has Mr Say responded to all this? He has very wisely decided to vote with his feet, and has announced plans to leave Turkey and move to Japan. That move has been motivated not just by this immediate insanity, but also by the death threats he has received from the Islamists.

Well, so much for freedom of thought in Turkey.


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