Leading Pianist and Secularist Charged With Blasphemy In Turkey

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

23 thoughts on “Leading Pianist and Secularist Charged With Blasphemy In Turkey”

  1. He-man wannabe jokester, Tagg Romney, should thank his lucky stars he’s not a Turkey.

  2. The threat to “Western Culture” IS NOT AETHEISM, IT IS JUDICIAL CORRUPTION: This is the gradual ebb and flow of a country’s stated values, constitution and legal edicts which are undermined at the highest levels of that Judiciary in that society.
    For example: In 2007, the United States Supreme Court ruled in the Winkleman Decision, that parents of children involved in “Special Education” suits, have a right to take up their children’s case as their own, and bring it before the courts. The decision did not say that when you do so Judges and Justices would provide the cover for a School District attorney to keep the parent/guardian (bringing the suit) outside the protections of the law. The decision did not say that the State attorney would cause, would make your life such a living hell that you would seek asylum away from freedom loving America; or that you would be illegally placed in prison, or that you would be kept permanently unemployed, (your nursing career destroyed) and have to live in shelters; or that Judges would commit fraud upon the court and take the child whose rights you took up away from you; or that the school district lawyer would conspire with a hospital to have you quietly put to sleep (murdered): Yet all of these things and more happened to me and my son, and are continuing under the realm of the American federal Courts: NH District Court, First Circuit and Supreme Court.
    Not in a court of law, or jury by your peer, but, for going after your Constitutional right to legal redress…not withdrawing that right etc!

  3. Gene and Frankly,
    The Bee Gees were great. They had an amazing number of hits. And you are right that the song was appropriate for this topic.
    Free speech is supposed to be messy, at least here in the States.

  4. I was not aware of the Obama administrations complicity in these laws being “standardized.” I guess it’s the “going along to get along” philosophy which is an anathema to me.

  5. What Justice Holmes said, yea, right. That is a path we should in no way go down. As Americans one has the privilege to have ones feelings hurt, their intellect insulted and their dearest beliefs ridiculed by anything they hear, read, or see on a screen, be it digital or analogue. As well, one is blessed (in an entirely secular manner) to have a country full of other Americans possessing the right to provide that opportunity 24-7 and with nearly universal lack of restraint. Is that a great country or what? Srsly. 🙂

  6. E.O. Wilson on evolutionary heresy:

    The sociobiology wars that began in the ’70s are over. The biological approach has prevailed. Yet, I totally misjudged the ignorance of the reaction that I was going to get from social scientists and political ideologues on the left on the publication of my book Sociobiology in 1975. It started a real controversy and revealed the very widespread—in fact, in places almost universal—belief in the blank slate mind: that is, a mind unaffected by genetic factors or biological processes that might predispose social behavior, especially, to develop in one direction or another. That view, that the mind was fully developed by learning, by experience, and by the contingencies of history was virtual dogma in the social sciences.

    It was also dogma among the far left, who held the position taken by the Marxists and by the late Soviet Union. In the 1920s the Soviet Union dropped eugenics, a kind of prerunner of sociobiology, and switched to blank slate dogma. That was a formidable political and academic establishment on American campuses and among American intelligentsia in the 1950s, but it seems amazing to me now, looking back on the past quarter of a century, that what I wrote could be regarded as heresy. When you read Sociobiology now it looks like a fairly mild foreshadowing of what was to come.

    Whatever elements of the blank slate there were in evolutionary biology and psychology vanished, or began to shrink substantially, and that’s been the tendency ever since. If there are blank slaters in the social sciences and humanities today—and I suppose there still are—it’s very hard to see how they could hold a discussion that would include anything that we actually know about how the brain works, and how child development proceeds. We’ve had a fair amount of success in many areas of interpreting human nature in evolutionary terms. They would just have to reject the science outright in the manner of religious dogmatists.

    (A United Biology, emphasis added). Scientists and religionists can become fanatical when their dogmas and doctrines are challenged, whether they are on the right or on the left, Christian, Jew, Muslim, or Akinoid.

  7. Gene – true it fits really well but I can’t pass up a chance to hate on them. I fear that future generations may believe that listening to them was socially acceptable & form bad opinions of the era! 🙂

  8. Frankly,

    Personally, I’m not a fan either but the song was too perfect a choice for the trend of the thread to pass up. 😀

  9. Past cases show that even the suggestion of blasphemy is enough to trigger violent riots …” – JT

    There are heresy accusations even in the highest places in modern science too, such as when Okasha (2005, p. 1008) stated:

    Since cells and multi-celled creatures obviously have evolved, and function well as adaptive units, the efficacy of group selection cannot be denied. Just as the blanket assumption that the individual organism is the sole unit of selection is untenable from a diachronic perspective, so too is the assumption that group selection is a negligible force. For by ‘frameshifting’ our perspective downward, it becomes apparent that individual organisms are co-operative groups, so are the product of group selection!

    which E.O. Wilson, the two time winner of the Nobel Prize, said would be called heresy as his own changes so as to adapt to sociobiology had also been called:

    The rejection of group selection made it a heresy to think about groups as like organisms, and now, ironically, it has emerged that organisms are literally the groups of past ages. Okasha (2005, p. 1008) eloquently summarizes the implications of these developments for sociobiological theory as a whole …

    (Rethinking Sociobiology, PDF, emphasis added). There has been a hateful concerted effort to remove from him his professorship, reputation, and the like in various degrees from mild to severe; although no death threats have yet been indicated.

  10. Gene – If I could I’d prosecute the Bee Gees for hate speech! Stoning is too good for them

  11. The continued involvement of President Obama in the drafting of and the approval of an “international” blasphemy laws is another disappointment with this administration. I have great difficulty trying to understand this willingness to be involved in such a process unless it is out of fear that failure to cooperate will evoke more violence.

    Does any one remember when the west thought Poland would be enough? No matter what is agreed upon there will always be more that is needed to show respect. Dark days indeed for the First Amendment and freedom of speech.

  12. I have no doubt that the admonition to love one another would be seen as blasphemy to the likes of Fred Phelps and his merry band of haters. Not to mention at least half the televangelists I see grubbing for money on the television machine.

    Or how about reminding the rich and super-rich the story about a camel getting through the eye of a needle. Such a reminder is worth a stoning at the very minimum.

  13. [But it is OK to attack Atheists. We are dangerous. The world continues to grow nuts.]

  14. It would appear that the “joke” was actually a plea to adhere to the religious dictates his persecutors espouse. It certainly is not offensive to Islam but it could be to the brand of religious crackpots that appear in every religion – the hypocrite. Maybe some mullah had his fee-fees hurt & it made his raki taste off.

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