Turkey: Fazil Say, Composer, Charged with Blasphemy for Tweets

Gatestone Institute 13 November 2012
By Veli Sirin

In both cases, Fazil Say's and Hamza Kashgari's, the statements of creative people – a composer and a poet – appear as pretexts for persecution because of their prior criticism of government actions. Kashgari, 23, charged with "apostasy," has been held in a Saudi jail since February.

Fazil Say, age 42, is known internationally as one of the best Turkish musical composers and performers. He has appeared with the New York Philharmonic and in concert halls around the world, from Paris to Tokyo, as well as in Turkey. His achievements include countless sonatas, concertos, oratorios, and several symphonies. He is engaged in ongoing work on an opera commemorating the 37 victims of an Islamist arson attack on a cultural festival held by members of the heterodox Alevi Muslim community in Sivas, a city in east-central Turkey, in 1993.

Say appeared in an Istanbul court on October 18 and was charged with hate speech and insulting religion for Twitter messages mocking the conduct and beliefs of Islamic fundamentalists. He faces a potential sentence of 18 months in prison. In one tweet, he commented on a muezzin, who calls Muslims to prayer, for his hurried style. In traditional Islam, the call to prayer, or ezan, is supposed to be delivered melodiously; muezzins from different mosques compete to see who can recite it in the most extended and pleasing tones (even though it is now usually played on speakers from a sound recording at the top of a minaret, rather than being rendered by a live person). A Muslim adage says that a discordant call to prayer or an ugly mosque is against religion. But following the example of the Saudi Wahhabi sect, fundamentalist muezzins now read out the call to prayer in a brusque manner resembling that of a grumpy public transit driver announcing a series of stops. (continue reading...)