Turkish Atheist charged with mocking Islam on Twitter

Published On: Thursday, November 29, 2012
By: John Roberts
Fazil Say
A Turkish court has charged Fazil Say, a classical pianist and jazz artist with an international career, with insults to Islamic values with messages on Twitter, the latest in a series of legal actions against Turkish artists, writers and intellectuals who have made statements about religion and Turkish national identity.

Say, 42, who is also a composer, is accused of publicly insulting religious values adapted by the nation, media reports said.

A trial is scheduled to begin Oct. 18 and he faces up to say 18 months in prison if convicted.

It is unusual for Twitter messages to be subject to prosecution in Turkey. Some of the messages were written by say, but one that mocked an Islamic vision of the afterlife, was written by someone else and passed along through Say’s Twitter account via a retweet.

Comparing the promise of heaven's rivers of wine flowing to a tavern brothel virgin, he said he was referring to a poem by 11th and 12th century Persian poet Omar Khayyam.
A tweet that was written by Say joked about the rapid delivery of a muezzin calls to prayer, asking if he wanted to get away quickly to take a drink.

The pianist, who has frequently criticized the pro Islamic Justice Party government and the Development of cultural and social policies, publicly defined himself as an atheist an admission of controversy in Turkey, which is overwhelmingly Muslim.

In a text message from Slovenia, Say said he was just one of the 165 people who shared the message on Twitter about the vision of the Islamic paradise.

''I just thought it was fun and retweeted the message,'' he said.

''It's amazing that it became a court case. This case, which goes against universal human rights and laws, it is sad, not only when judged on its merits, but also for Turkey's image.''

Many intellectuals and writers have faced similar charges in recent years, including Orhan Pamuk, the Nobel laureate, who was fined $3,700 last year for telling a Swiss newspaper that'' Turks have killed 30,000 Kurds and 1 million Armenians.''

The European Union, which Turkey is trying to join, and other international organizations have criticized such actions as violations of freedom of expression.