I’m not sure of everyone else but when I hear that someone has been convicted of blasphemy, I instantly think it refers to the medieval ages or at least a long time ago. However this latest news story refers to a composer and pianist who has been convicted of blasphemy by a supposedly secular Turkish court.
The court has convicted the pianist and composer – Fazil Say of blasphemy and inciting hatred, for a series of Tweets that he made last year. The ten month sentence has been suspended however any similar offence would mean he’d be imprisoned, in a Turkish prison.
So what did he say ?
Well one message he tweeted a verse from a Persian poet called Omar Khayyam which attacks the pious and their hypocrisy. I’m not sure if anything happened to Omar but it sounds like 11th Century Persia was a little bit open minded about free speech than present day Turkey.
Other tweets made fun of certain religious practices and in particular teasing people about the Muezzin (the Muslim call to to prayer). All this apparently amounts to blasphemy in the country that was once a beacon for secular rule and free speech in the Muslim world.
Of course the fact that Fazil Say had been openly critical of the ruling party and the Turkish prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, may have something to do with this ridiculous ruling. Other artists and intellectuals are increasing being targeted for any criticisms voiced in public.
Turkey is a wonderful country, however the ideals set out by Mustafa Kemal Atatürk seem to be slowly losing their importance in this country.
I have no religion, and at times I wish all religions at the bottom of the sea. He is a weak ruler who needs religion to uphold his government; it is as if he would catch his people in a trap. My people are going to learn the principles of democracy, the dictates of truth and the teachings of science. Superstition must go. Let them worship as they will; every man can follow his own conscience, provided it does not interfere with sane reason or bid him against the liberty of his fellow-men.
Many organisations have expressed concern, including the European Union. The EU Foreign Policy chief suggested that Turkey must respect the principle of freedom of speech. Fazil Say has not commented much yet, other than to express his disappointment at the ruling. He has suggested previously that he would leave the country if convicted, which of course as an International star he is able to do.
I know lots of Turkish people and have family there, this decision will not be popular. Turkish people are relaxed, fair minded and value freedom of expression as much as anyone. But the sad reality is that slowly Turkey becoming a society where people are scared to speak their mind. Slowly the internet is becoming more and more filtered in Turkey mainly due to pressure from religious groups. If you want to surf the internet without Government filters and controls you will already need to use something like a USA proxy server or similar.