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article imageTurkish pianist faces jail for tweets about Islam

By Steffan Ileman     Jun 2, 2012 in Politics
Turkey's Islamist government is prosecuting the country's celebrated pianist Fazil Say for uttering humorous tweets, which the government says is defamatory of religious values. Turkish PM wants to cut government funding to the Arts.
Charges were filed in a Turkish court yesterday against Fazil Say, a pianist of international fame, for his musings about Islam on Twitter last month. The prosecutor is asking for a one and a half year jail term for demeaning religious values adhered to by a segment of Turkey's population.
In an apparent reference to Islam's enticement to men about the afterlife, Say quoted from a verse by the famous Islamic poet Omar Khayyam, tweeting,
"You say wine will flow from its rivers,
Is heaven a pub?
You say two women per believer,
Is heaven a brothel? "
Say also tweeted that he's an atheist and proud of it. In another tweet he made fun of a muezzin that finished the call to prayer in 22 seconds. He asked, "What's the rush, a lover or the raki (booze) table waiting for you?"
Say said he was only being humorous quoting from Omar Khayyam, and his tweets were taken out of context, but the government wasn't amused. The prosecutor rejected Say's defense that it was fair comment under the right to freedom of speech. He said Say's Twitter account is accessible by the public, and his comments had no redeeming public value. He said Say had insulted adherents of the three major religions that believe in paradise and hell.
In a message he texted to the New York Times Say said he was only one of the 165 people that had received the tweet, which he re-tweeted because he found it funny. "It is unbelievable that it was made into a court case." he said, and added that it was a breach of universal human rights laws.
Under the previous secular regime teaching of religion was regulated by the government, and private religious schools and teachers were banned or severely restricted. Here's what Ali Demircan, a self-appointed teacher, says about the Islamic paradise in his book titled "Sexuality According To Islam.":
"There will be no single people in heaven.
The lowest rank of paradise-bound will receive 72 women. Highest rank of believers will have sex with 100 women.
In paradise women will remain virgins even after they have sexual intercourse.
In paradise every man will have the potency of 100 men.
Paradise-bound women will be given over to religious martyrs, but those men will each have the potency of 5 men, thus giving the women every conceivable pleasure.
Paradise-bound men will have permanent erections, and they will be able to have sex all day long not only with their wives, but with the houris (indescribable beauties) they receive. "
In what was seen as another assault against Turkey's artists Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan said last week that he was planning to cut government funding for the arts. He was said to be incensed over an offensive mimicking by an actor for her daughter's headscarf when she attended a play on the front row of a theatre. He said artists are an arrogant elite that are out of touch with the majority of the population, and are biting the hand that feeds them.
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