You might think your social network profile is yours to voice your beliefs and arguments on without being in any way accounted for. So did Turkish pianist Fazil Say, one of the most preeminent orchestra musicians in the world. The Turkish pianist was sentenced to ten months in jail for Islam insults on Twitter.
There’s a common belief that speaking your mind via social networks is an universal human right. That doesn’t apply everywhere. Remember, there’s still censorship going around, although Facebook and Twitter are now available in countries with controversial freedom of speech policies. This Monday, A Turkish court sentenced pianist Fazil Say to ten months behind bars for what they took as blasphemous and insulting tweets against Islam.
“The fact that I was given a sentence despite my innocence is cause for concern with regard freedoms of expression and belief” said pianist Fazil Say about him being sentenced over the tweets. Tweets that include jokes about alcohol consumption, which is considered by many Muslims as unacceptable, as well as one where Say used a verse by medieval poet Omar Khayyam to question the sacrality of a heaven that resembles much of a tavern or a brothel, with wine and virgins waiting for the believer.
For the moment being, Fazil Say’s lawyer got him a suspended prison sentence, which means that the 10 months in jail will be canceled if the pianist doesn’t reoffend.
The initial complaint against the Turkish pianist was filed by Emre Bukagili, who complained that Say’s tweets were written in “a disrespectful, offensive and impertinent tone toward religious concepts such as heaven and the call to prayer”. But it’s hard to disregard the fact that the sentence comes following Say’s intense criticism against the government led by devoted Muslim Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
“I would not wish anyone to be put on trial for words that have been expressed. This is especially true of artists and cultural figures. But… this is a judicial decision” said Turkish Culture and Tourism Minister Omer Celik.
What’s concerning about Fazil Say’s sentence is that this isn’t the first time Turkish authorities react so aggravated over Islam comments. Fazil Say isn’t the first intellectual or artist to be prosecuted by a Turkish court for making comments or hinting at controversial Islamic traditions or the government’s conduct. Turkish Nobel laureate and award-winning writer Orhan Pamuk and ethnic Armenian journalist Hrant Drink are just two of the most popular cases.