And since the once secular Turkey has gradually become more like its Islamist-leaning cousins elsewhere in the Middle East, people over there now need to be very careful what they say about Islam- or they could wind up like 42-year-old Fazil Say. Say is a famous, world renowned Turkish classical pianist- who also happens to be an avowed atheist- who is facing an 18-month jail term for insulting "Muslim religious values." Apparently Say (who has performed with orchestras all over the world) uses Twitter, and religious conservatives took offense to some quotes from a poem by Omar Khayyam (11th Century Persian poet of "Rubaiyat" fame) that he posted.
“You say rivers of wine flow in heaven, is heaven a tavern to you? You say two hours await each believer there, is heaven a brothel to you?”
He also made fun of a muazzin:
someone who makes the Muslim call to prayer.
“The muazzin finished the evening prayers in 22 seconds ... Why are you in such hurry? A lover? A raki table?” he asked, referring to the aniseed-flavored spirit popular in Turkey.
His trial is set to commence on October 17 in Istanbul, and according to his attorney, Meltem Akyol, Say will be attending.
In the meantime he is contemplating getting the heck out of dodge.
The multiple award-winning artist said in April in an interview with the Hurriyet daily that he felt completely ostracized by Turkish society since he declared that he was an atheist and that the criticism he had received had highlighted a growing culture of intolerance.
“I think it’s time for me to move to Japan,” Say told the daily.
“When I said that I was an atheist, everyone insulted me and the legal authorities jumped on everything that I wrote on Twitter. I am perhaps the first person anywhere in the world to be the object of a judicial inquiry for declaring that they are an atheist.”
Ironically, Al Arabiya mentions that conservative Islamist Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan was jailed in 1998,
...for reciting a poem that a court ruled was an incitement to religious hatred.
Erdogan, the then mayor of Istanbul, had belonged to an Islamist party that had been banned after the military forced its leader to resign as prime minister a year earlier. He served six months in jail. The poem he had read contained the verses;“The mosques are our barracks, the domes our helmets, the minarets our bayonets and the faithful our soldiers.”
You'd think Erdogan would be more understanding, then again, maybe it's his payback time. Besides, Islamists have little to no tolerance or understanding of anything other than their own ultra rigid beliefs.