Facing Trial for Joking on Twitter: Charges against Turkish Star Pianist Fazil Say

Analysis, posted 06.16.2012, from Turkey, in:
Facing Trial for Joking on Twitter: Charges against Turkish Star Pianist Fazil Say (Photo: picture-alliance/dpa)

"Could paradise be a brothel?" is one of Fazil Say's Twitter posts that have incurred the wrath of Turkish authorities. Some of the tweets by the internationally acclaimed Turkish pianist weren't even his own words. Say quoted medieval Persian poet Omar Khayyam: "You say that there are rivers of wine. Does that mean it is a heavenly bar? You say two virgins will be given to every believer. Does that mean it is a heavenly brothel?"

Say's Twitter posts instantly provoked debate and Muslim Turks insulted him online. The 42-year-old, who has said he is an atheist, stayed calm and reacted with sarcasm: "The muezzin's call for evening prayer lasts only 22 seconds. Prestissimo con fuoco!! Why the haste? A mistress? The raki table?"

Charges of sedition

Say's comments also drew the ire of Turkish authorities who alerted Istanbul's Public Prosecution Service.

Say now faces charges of inciting hatred and public enmity, and insulting "religious values". The prosecutor claimed Say's tweets could lead to a "collapse of public order".

Say is not unknown to the Turkish authorities. He openly criticized the Turkish government on several occasions, and said he'd consider leaving his home country because of the politics by the government of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, whose party has strong roots in Islam.

In an April 23 interview with Turkish daily Hürriyet, Say announced he would emigrate to Japan, because of the growing cultural intolerance in Turkey.

"When I said I was an atheist everybody insulted me," said Say. The authorities "chased after everything I posted on Twitter." In the interview Say said he felt completely ostracized from Turkish society and that the criticism he was facing was a sign of a growing atmosphere of intolerance in Turkey.

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By Arne Lichtenberg

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