Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Turkey: pianist Fazil Say convicted of blasphemy

The Islamisation of Turkey: the case of Fazil Say
By Elizabeth Kendal
Religious Liberty Monitoring, 22 October 2012

On Monday 15 April 2013, a Turkish court convicted the country's most renowned virtuoso pianist and composer Fazil Say (43) of blasphemy and insulting religious values over a series of comments he made on Twitter last year. In one "offensive tweet" Say quoted a verse from a poem by the 11th-century Persian poet Omar Khayyám: "You say rivers of wine flow in heaven, is heaven a tavern to you? You say two huris [companions] await each believer there, is heaven a brothel to you?" Say, a strong believer in minority rights and separation of mosque/church and State routinely expressed contempt for pious hypocrisy.

The court sentenced Say to 10 months in jail -- wholly suspended ("supervised release") -- reduced from 12 months due to good behaviour in court. As Say's lawyer, Meltem Akyol, explains, Say would have to serve the term if he commits a similar offence [i.e. saying something that offends Muslims] within the next five years.

Deutsche Welle concludes: "Several years ago, the pianist complained in an interview about deficits in freedom of expression in his country, criticizing what he called the restrictive approach of the conservative government.

"Now convicted of blasphemy, Say may be one step closer to a move he has said he is pondering: leaving Turkey behind for Japan."

Sentencing blow for pianist Fazil Say
Deutsche Welle, 15 April 2013
Quote: German parliamentarian Sevim Dagdelen told Deutsche Welle: "Fazil Say is a very sensitive but also very brave human being. He's not easily intimidated and believes strongly in the separation of church [mosque] and state. He's also a passionate advocate of human, civil and minority rights. . . He's a thorn in the side of the AK Party, because he doesn't censor what he says."

Turkey fears of Islamic challenge to secular state
RT - includes video report by Maria Finoshina. 15 April 2013 Quote: Secular Turks have become increasingly concerned over what they see as the creeping Islamization of society.
"Honestly, we were not expecting this ruling, and all I can say is, both legally and for the country, it's a sad decision," Say's lawyer Meltem Akyol told Reuters. 

Turkish composer Fazil Say convicted of blasphemy and inciting hatred
The pianist describes verdict as 'a sad for Turkey' after being given suspended 10-month prison sentence for series of tweets
Constanze Letsch in Istanbul for the Guardian
Monday 15 April 2013
Quote: Erdogan and his government have been accused of wanting to dismantle Turkish secularism and of curbing freedom of expression. In a report published at the end of last month, Amnesty International called the lack of freedom of speech in Turkey one of the country's "most entrenched human rights problems".

Pianist Fazil Say sentenced over 'insulting religious values' on Twitter
Agence France-Presse in Istanbul, 15 Apr 2013
Fazil Say, the world-renowned pianist, has been handed a 10-month suspended jail term for blasphemy over comments he made on Twitter. 


An Istanbul appellate court has cancelled Fazil Say's jail sentence and ordered a retrial citing irregularities in his initial trial. This leaves me (EK) wondering if Turkey is embarrased by the Fazil Say episode and seeking a way out. NOTE: a reversal of result for Say would only stand as a precedent for Turks with equivalent degrees of international fame.

Turkish pianist to be retried for insulting Islam
Turkish Press, 27 April 2013