By Dante Kotsinas, Institute for Cultural Diplomacy. Fazil Say is a Turkish composer and pianist who has been active in producing and performing music for more than 25 years. Say has attracted widespread international attention and has been honored for his work on several occasions. Another reason why he might be known to some of us is that he is an outspoken critic of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP).
Since a few months now, Say has been facing charges of blasphemy and accused of insulting the religious values of part of the Turkish population. The charges were based on a series of tweets which seem to turn against Islam, inciting hatred towards certain segments of society. “I am an atheist and I am proud to be able to say this so comfortably” and “I am not sure if you have also realized it, but all the pricks, low-lives, buffoons, thieves, jesters, they are all Allahists”, are two of the tweets which have been linked to the charges.
Say was sentenced this morning to a 10-month suspended jail term having faced the possibility of an even larger sentence. Say was not present at the trial and has been arguing that the whole case against him is driven by AKP, which, in his view, has a secret agenda to promote conservative values in Turkey. Say has clearly stated that he had no intention of insulting Islam and Muslims.
The case is raising serious questions regarding Turkey’s commitment to freedom of speech and respect for human rights. According to statistics, the country has the highest number of imprisoned journalists in the world! These facts will probably have to change if the country wants to enter the EU; and if the EU wants Turkey as a member in its family, it must raise its voice once again and condemn today’s conviction of Fazil Say!
What do you think about Blasphemy laws? Can such laws be reconciled with our basic rights to religious freedom and freedom of expression?