A pianist and composer has been convicted of blasphemy and inciting religious hatred for a series of tweets criticizing Islam by the government of Turkey, allegedly the most liberal of the Muslim-dominated countries. Fazil Say was charged and convicted after quoting Persian poet Omar Khayyám:
A Turkish court has convicted pianist and composer Fazil Say of blasphemy and inciting hatred over a series of comments he had made on Twitter last year…
Say who was not present at the hearing, issued a statement describing the verdict “a sad one for Turkey”. He denied the charges, saying they were politically motivated.
The 43-year-old went on trial in October accused of denigrating Islam in a series of tweets earlier last year. In one message he retweeted a verse from a poem by Omar Khayyám in which the 11th-century Persian poet attacks pious hypocrisy: “You say rivers of wine flow in heaven, is heaven a tavern to you? You say two huris [companions] await each believer there, is heaven a brothel to you?” In other tweets, he had made fun of a muezzin (a caller to prayer) and certain religious practices.
He was given a suspended sentence, which is almost liberal compared to what happens in Pakistan, Saudi Arabia or most other Muslim countries when convicted of blasphemy, but it means that if he does anything similar in the next five years he would have to serve a prison term. Free speech? Oh, that’s just a Western concept and you wouldn’t want to impose your cultural norms on others, would you? Hell yes, I would. It’s a basic human right. And if your religion and your culture says it’s okay to violate that right to appease authoritarian fundamentalists, fuck your religion and your culture.