Celebrated Turkish pianist and atheist Fazil Say has been given a 10-month suspended sentence for Twitter comments “insulting Islam”. He will face imprisonment if he “re-offends” and has shut down his Twitter account.
His Tweets included 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 made fun of a call to prayer that lasted only 22 seconds. Say tweeted: “Why such haste? Have you got a mistress waiting or a raki on the table?”
Emre Bukagili, a “citizen” (read Islamist) who filed the initial complaint against Say, said that the musician had used “a disrespectful, offensive and impertinent tone toward religious concepts such as heaven and the call to prayer.”
In other news, Bangladeshi author Taslima Nasrin who has faced numerous threats to her life has also been dragged into an Indian court and prevented from leaving the country by an Islamist because her Tweet on Muslim women “hurt his religious sentiments”.
“Muslim women deserve to have sex with 72 virgin men on the earth as they won’t get these things in heaven.”
And of course everyone knows about the threats of death against atheist, secularist and freethinking Bangladeshi bloggers. Islamists have called for the execution of 84.
Rather than arresting the Islamists, the Bangladeshi government has arrested four bloggers, namely Subrata Adhikari Shuvo, Mashiur Rahman Biplob, Rasel Parvez, and Asif Mohiuddin, who was brutally attacked in January. The four are still in detention and their bail applications refused. In the meantime, two more have been arrested from another district, one for ‘liking’ a Facebook page, the other for liking his ‘like’! There are reports that the government is now planning to arrest 7 or 11 more bloggers, An International Day to Defend Bangladesh’s bloggers has been called in order to stand with and support them.
Of course many Muslims also face attacks from Islamists and their supporters for questioning and challenging the status quo.
Canadian Muslim art student Sooraya Graham is one such case. She has had to leave her university and city of residence due to threats following an art work on women and the niqab.
As I have said many times, no society is homogeneous. Those who try to muzzle our freethinkers by claiming “offence” forget that we too are offended daily by their medievalism and barbarity. But freedom of expression does not include the right not to be offended.
Rather than being a question of offence, however, such charges and threats are further attempts at silencing criticism of Islam and/or Islamism by the powers that be.
Despite the threats, what is becoming very clear is that nothing will stop this wave of dissent.
Hands off and long live our freethinkers!