World renowned pianist receives death threats and faces jail for insulting Islam

Fazil Say

FAZIL Say, an internationally renowned pianist, could face jail in his native Turkey for messages he posted on Twitter, including his questioning the nature of paradise, which he speculated might be a “brothel”.

Yesterday, an Istanbul court said Say’s Twitters may have insulted Islamic religious values, charges the pianist denies. The court voted to approve an indictment against Say, who has played piano with the New York Philharmonic, Berlin Symphony Orchestra, Israel Philharmonic, National Orchestra of France and Tokyo Symphony.

The 42-year-old Turk faces charges of inciting hatred and public enmity, and insulting “religious values.” Say, who has served as a culture ambassador for the European Union, allegedly mocked Islamic beliefs about paradise in April.

Meltem Akyol, a lawyer for Say, said the pianist has denied the charges. The trial will be held on Oct. 18, she said.

We certainly do not accept the charges. He has stated in his initial testimony during the probe that he had no intention to humiliate any religion. He was basically criticising those who are exploiting religion for profit.

Akyol said Say’s tweets and retweets on social media cannot be considered as public remarks because only people who follow him can see them.

In one tweet cited in the indictment, Say said:

What if there is raki (traditional anisette drink) in paradise but not in hell, while there is Chivas Regal (scotch) in hell and not in paradise? What will happen then? This is the most important question!!

Islam forbids alcohol and many Islamists might consider such remarks unacceptable. In one of the pianist’s retweets, one excerpt questioned whether paradise was a “brothel?” according to the indictment.

Akyol confirmed that Say closed his Twitter account before the court decision Friday, because he was annoyed with messages.

He has lately incurred the wrath of some people. He has even been receiving death threats.

Say had floated the idea of leaving Turkey and moving to Japan earlier this year, his lawyer said. The pianist was abroad and not available for comment. He is expected to return to Istanbul this weekend following a concert in Slovenia on Friday.

He could face a maximum 18 months in prison if convicted.

The European Union has long encouraged Turkey to improve freedom of speech if it wants to become a member one day.

Turkey’s Nobel laureate Orhan Pamuk was prosecuted for his comments about the mass killings of Armenians under a law that made it a crime to insult the Turkish identity before the government eased that law in an amendment in 2008.

In 2007, ethnic Armenian journalist Hrant Dink, who received death threats because of his comments about the killings of Armenians by Turks in 1915, was shot dead outside his office in Istanbul.

Hat tip: Alper T


13 responses to “World renowned pianist receives death threats and faces jail for insulting Islam”

  1. Daz says:

    Someone tell me again how religion is a force for harmony in the world? It’s odd, but I keep forgetting just how that works.

    {Am I the only one who looked askance at the construction “said Say’s”?)

    My knowledge of non-rock music being sadly lacking, I had to look the chap up. Must say (hah!) I’m impressed.

  2. 5ec4um says:

    I still can’t get my head around the concept of “insulting a religion”.

    In any case, if these fanatics believe their god is all powerful, why not just let the miscreant get his comeuppance in the eternal fires of hell (or whatever)? Surely that’s the obvious solution.

  3. Matt Westwood says:

    Muslims are such arseholes, aren’t they? Worse than Christians, in fact, which is really saying something.

  4. barriejohn says:

    Why didn’t he consult the Koran? It tells us EXACTLY what Paradise is like!

  5. alb says:

    I feel a fatwa coming on.

  6. Stonyground says:

    On another thread about Lady Gaga cancelling concerts in Islamic countries, someone commented that Islamists resort to threats and violence because their religion is unable to compete in the international marketplace of ideas. I would add that, in the days when Christians were powerful, they did the same thing and for the same reason.

  7. Stonyground says:

    I followed Daz’s link. I have to say that his Beethoven is impressive. One more reason why religion is bad for your society, it persecutes the brightest and best.

  8. Angela_K says:

    Fazil Say should leave Turkey and stay out of all muslim countries as they are too ignorant to appreciate talented musicians and good music – isn’t music haram anyway?

    This place called paradise [that doesn’t exist] full of virginal women waiting to be sexually abused sounds just like a brothel to me. And of course women get a bad deal in islam even when dead.

  9. Matt Westwood says:

    Compared to Turkey, *this* place is paradise. Except it rains a bit too often to acquire a decent suntan naturally, which is a minor bit of a bugger. So let him come here while he’s still alive and appreciate what partying is *really* about. His delightful piano, my saxophone, my mate Jason on guitar, my other mate Rik on drums, Janet on flute, Diane on bass, and AF on vocals, if we can get him to take time out from his hectic book-signing schedule …

    Who needs virgins anyway, they don’t know how to fuck worth a damn.

  10. AgentCormac says:

    It speaks volumes about the hokum that lies at the heart of their religion that these people have to resort to threats if someone dares question its validity. For if their religion really was based on truth (rather than superstitious twaddle) it would be so blindingly obvious to one and all that no one would feel the need to ever question it in the first place. And presumably believers would feel so secure in that truth that criticism of any kind would be an utter irrelevance to them.

    Their bleating and posturing says everything you need to know about the veracity of their tedious faith.

  11. […] World renowned pianist receives death threats and faces jail for insulting Islam ( […]

  12. Clive Bond says:

    The best way in the long way to help people like Fazil Say, is to keep joking about religion. Poke fun at the priests and mulla’s/clerics every chance we get. Show them we are not afraid to express our disgust at their archaic ways. They (the religious) are primitive thinkers and should be shown the derision they deserve.

  13. mikespeir says:

    Good. We need to take everyone making a positive contribution to the future of humankind off the streets and replace them with people who bow down to phantoms five times a day. Sheesh!