European countries will face new humanitarian tragedies leading to mass killings of people if they continue in their failure to embrace tolerance toward different cultures and religions, President Abdullah Gül has warned. “Islam and migrants have been a reality in Europe for centuries. As long as the continent of Europe doesn’t approach segments which are different from the majority with tolerance, particularly in regards to religion, an occurrence of new inquisitions and Holocausts, as well as incidents evoking Srebrenica, are probable . . .”
A Turkish court has convicted pianist and composer Fazil Say of blasphemy and inciting hatred through a series of comments he had made on Twitter last year. According to his lawyer, Meltem Akyol, the musician was given a suspended 10-month jail term. Akyol also said that his client would have to serve the term if he committed a similar offense within the next five years.
Say, who was not present at the hearing, issued a statement, describing the verdict “a sad one for Turkey”. He denied the charges, saying that they were politically motivated.
The 43-year-old went on trial for denigrating Islam last October for a series of tweets earlier that year. In one of his messages he had retweeted a verse from a poem by Omar Khayyám in which the 11th-century Persian poet attacks pious hypocrisy: “You say rivers of wine flow in heaven, is heaven a tavern to you? You say two huris [companions] await each believer there, is heaven a brothel to you?” In other tweets, he had made fun of a muezzin (caller to prayer) and certain religious practices.Artists and intellectuals have repeatedly been targeted in Turkey for voicing their opinions, and the case against Say has renewed concerns about the Turkish government’s stance towards freedom of expression. The composer has been a vocal critic of the ruling AK party and the Turkey’s prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
Erdogan and his government have been accused of wanting to dismantle Turkish secularism curbing freedom of expression in the country. In a report published at the end of last month, Amnesty International called the lack of freedom of speech in Turkey one of the country’s “most entrenched human rights problems.”