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Turkish pianist investigated for irreverent tweets

Fazil Say could face up to three years in prison if found guilty of  insulting religious values and inciting the public toward hostility.


Kevin Collier

Internet Culture

One of Turkey’s renowned classical musicians is hearing a sour note from his government after nonchalantly tweeting about his atheism.

Fazil Say, a 42-year-old pianist and flamboyant figure in Turkey’s classical music scene, is under investigation by the Istanbul Prosecutor’s Office for tweets that mock religion.

The tweets have since been deleted, but they’re suspected of violating the Turkish Penal Code’s provisions against insulting religious values and inciting the public toward hostility. Though he specifically mocked Islam, the investigation claims Say’s tweets also insulted Christians and Jews.

Turkey has no state religion. Most Turks are Muslim, though the country also has a strong history of secularism.

Turkish news sources have reported some of the deleted tweets, though it’s unclear if they’re the same ones that prompted the investigation.

One tweet joked about a Muezzin, who leads Muslims in a call to prayer, who rushed his job:

“The muezzin has recited the evenin azan in 22 seconds,” Say reportedly tweeted. “What’s the rush? Lover?”

He’s said to have also tweeted a joke, stating that since the Quaran promises drinks and beautiful women to those who do good deeds, heaven seems like a pub or brothel.

Say also made plain his own views clear, stating “I am an atheist and proud to have said it loud and clear.”

If charged and found guilty, Say faces a prison sentence of six months to three years.

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