Last Sunday, I published a column on “The Death of Free Speech”, highlighting the continuing threat of blasphemy prosecutions around the world. This week we have yet another such disturbing case. Well-known Turkish pianist and composer Fazil Say appeared in court on Thursday on charges of offending Muslims and insulting Islam in brief Twitter posts. Say is a celebrated artist who has appeared with both the New York Philharmonic and the Berlin Symphony Orchestra and will now face 18 months in jail for making a joke on Twitter.
Say joked on Twitter about a prayer that lasted only second. He sent a Tweet: “Why such haste? Have you got a mistress waiting or a raki on the table?” Raki is a traditional alcoholic drink made with aniseed.
Prosecutors accused Say of inciting hatred and public enmity, and with insulting “religious values.”
Say has been a prominent critic of the rise of Islamic parties in Turkey, particularly the government of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who heads the largest religious based party.
While the joke is the main basis for the charge, the prosecutors have cited other tweets, including one referencing verses from the famous medieval poet and wine-lover Omar Khayyam which questioned whether heaven was a tavern or a brothel, because of the promises that wine will flow and each believer will be greeted by virgins.
I have written extensively on the rise of blasphemy or hate speech prosecutions against religious critics in the West. The Obama Administration has been working with Pakistan and other Muslim nations to develop an international standard for blasphemy prosecutions. The West has steadily yielded to the demands of religious groups that free speech must be curtailed in the name of faith. At the same time, Western governmental and religious leaders have denounced agnostics and atheists as one of the greatest threats facing the West (here and here and here and here). President Obama and Hillary Clinton have been facilitating this trend by working with Muslim nations to develop an international standard allowing for the prosecution of those who insult religion. The Administration has drawn a dangerous line with Muslim countries in first supporting the concept of an international blasphemy standard. As I have mentioned before, the efforts of the Obama Administration to work with these countries on an international blasphemy standard is a threat to free speech around the world. After first supporting an international blasphemy standard, the Administration sought to get Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and other countries to adopt the Brandenburg standard as the basis for such prosecutions. This case also shows why the use of the Brandenburg standard is so dangerous in the hands of such officials who view free speech as the cause of imminent violence. Past cases show that even the suggestion of blasphemy is enough to trigger violent riots in some Muslim nations. Because any joke or image of the Prophet can trigger violence, the standard is immediately satisfied in countries like Egypt and Pakistan, which can then claim some legal legitimacy under the standard created with the United States.
Here a joke is considered to be incitement in Turkey.
Source: Washington Post