Freedom of Expression,  Turkey

Turkish pianist faces charges for ‘insulting Islam’

Fazil Say, a leading Turkish pianist, is being charged with insulting ‘religious values’ after apparently making a series of facetious remarks about Islam back in April:

Akyol said Say’s tweets and retweets on social media cannot be considered as public remarks because only people who follow him can see them. In one tweet cited in the indictment, Say said: “What if there is raki (traditional anisette drink) in paradise but not in hell, while there is Chivas Regal (scotch) in hell and not in paradise? What will happen then? This is the most important question!!”

Islam forbids alcohol and many Islamists might consider such remarks unacceptable. In one of the pianist’s retweets, one excerpt questioned whether paradise was a “brothel?” according to the indictment.

The pianist, who has received death threats, could face up to one and a half years in prison if found guilty.

Say is an atheist.  I hope (genuinely hope, rather than just snarking) that people like him, or those who choose to leave Islam for some other religion, would fall within the remit of this initiative, which at first glance seems welcome.  The Islamic Society of North America is working to try to ensure that the rights of those following minority religions are protected in Muslim majority countries:

“In Islam, we are taught that all people are equal and should not be discriminated against in any way based on their religion,” stated Elsanousi.  “It is our responsibility as Muslims to promote programs and policies that protect freedom of religion for all people in the emerging democracies across the Arab Spring to ensure the repression of the old regimes is never allowed to take root again.”