Another entry in the annals of Persecuting and Prosecuting People For Having an Opinion That Reactonaries Dislike.
A court here on Friday charged Fazil Say, a classical and jazz pianist with an international career, with insulting Islamic values in Twitter messages, the latest in a series of legal actions against Turkish artists, writers and intellectuals for statements they have made about religion and Turkish national identity.
Mr. Say, 42, who is also a composer, is accused of “publicly insulting religious values that are adopted by a part of the nation,” the semiofficial Anatolian news agency said. A trial is scheduled to begin on Oct. 18, with Mr. Say facing up to 18 months in prison if convicted.
Charged with insulting Islamic values – there it is again – that bone-headed idea that nonsentient nonconscious nonalive abstractions like “values” can be “insulted” and that “insulting” them is a serious crime. An idea so bone-headed and so primitive that it’s as if the very concept of free speech and inquiry had never been formulated. An idea that, enshrined in law, would seem to make any kind of public discussion and investigation and forward motion impossible. An idea that belongs in a frozen static stonelike thoughtworld, where “yes” is the only word in the language.
And all this over tweets, for fuck’s sake.
It is unusual for Twitter posts to be the subject of an indictment in Turkey. Some of the messages were written by Mr. Say, but one, which poked fun at an Islamic vision of the afterlife, was written by someone else and passed along by Mr. Say via his Twitter account. Likening heaven’s promise of rivers of wine to a tavern and of virgins to a brothel, it referred to a poem by the 11th-century Persian poet Omar Khayyam, Mr. Say said in a text message from Slovenia, where he had just arrived for a concert.
Retweeted, in other words. It’s faintly risible that the Times thinks it has to spell that out, but it’s also faintly risible that adults spend their time tweeting and retweeting – and yet we do. It’s an odd world we live in.
But anyway, the point is, he’s being prosecuted partly for retweeting something. For retweeting something. People often retweet things because they’re so stupid or wrong or nasty; it’s not always an endorsement! It’s certainly not law enforcement’s job to decide it is. (But in Turkey it is. I know. Turkey is wrong.)
The pianist, who has frequently criticized the pro-Islamic Justice and Development Party government over its cultural and social policies, publicly defines himself as an atheist — a controversial admission in Turkey, which is overwhelmingly Muslim.
And bossy. Incredibly, searchingly bossy.
Many intellectuals and writers have faced similar charges in recent years, including Orhan Pamuk, the Nobel laureate, who last year was fined $3,700 for saying in a Swiss newspaper that Turks “have killed 30,000 Kurds and 1 million Armenians.”
The European Union, which Turkey is seeking to join, and other international organizations have criticized such actions as violations of free speech.