Turkish Atheist to be Prosecuted for ‘Insulting Islamic Values’

If you are an out atheist in the U.S., chances are you’ve gotten some level of blow-back for being open about your atheism. Being openly critical of religion can hurt you, professionally and personally. However I’m guessing that the last time you snarked about Noah’s ark on Facebook, re-tweeted the link to a Neil deGrasse Tyson rant, or commented on Friendly Atheist, the idea that the government could come down on you like a ton of bricks didn’t even cross your mind.

Fazil Say

Not all of our co-nonreligionists are so lucky, as the Turkish atheist Fazil Say has just learned.

The government of Turkey has decided to prosecute him for insults to Islam. What did he say or do that was so insulting? Did he burn a Koran? Did he urinate against a mosque while singing “Ten foot c*ck and a few hundred virgins“? Did he commit the ultimate sin of naming a plush toy after the prophet Muhammad?

No, he re-tweeted someone else’s joke about the afterlife and poked some fun at the call to prayer:

Likening heaven’s promise of rivers of wine to a tavern and of virgins to a brothel, Say said that it referred to a poem by the 11th and 12th-century Persian poet Omar Khayyam.

A tweet that was written by Say joked about a muezzin’s rapid delivery of the call to prayer, asking if he wanted to get away quickly for a drink.

For this, Say faces up to 18 months in jail. One has to wonder about how secure you feel in your belief system when a couple of vanilla tweets are enough for you to call for prosecution of a dissenting voice. I’m certain that this makes the Islamists feel very powerful and manly, but from my perspective, the fact that they feel the need to so severely police the thoughts and words of their populace is a testament to the weakness of their philosophy and a sign of the actual terror they feel that anyone might point out that the prophet is wearing no clothes.

About Claudia

I'm a lifelong atheist and a molecular biologist with a passion for science and a passionate opposition to its enemies.

  • Avery

    What’s interesting about this is that Turkey has a secular constitution.  How is this possible?  Are there separate laws the prohibit criticisms of other religions?

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=503257844 Adam Evans

      Kinda of reminds me of the United States. We do have an secular constitution, but the people in government are supportive of the religious majority. 

    • Stev84

      It’s certainly the most secular Islamic country by far. But religious groups and political candidates have gained a lot of power there in recent years.

  • B.

    Our laws seem secular yet there are hidden treasures(!) which might get you in trouble.  Creationist and moderate(!!) Islamist government use those gems very efficiently. It is getting harder to be a non-believer in Turkey.

  • Justin Miyundees

    Don’t think for a second there aren’t Christians who would LOVE to see this kind of prosecution/persecution in the good ol’ USA.

    • http://profiles.google.com/joebbowers Joe Bowers

      Absolutely true. Christians are no different from Muslims, and the bible has the same punishments for apostasy that the Koran has, they just lack the power to enforce their religious laws. At any point in history where Christians have had the full power of the state behind them, they have burned, crucified, and tortured anyone who questioned established doctrine.

      Thank the founding fathers for protecting us from religious laws.

    • http://www.poetrypoem.com/musicman Tnmusicman

      Yet,some of “us” would not want to see that but thank you for the strawman!

      • JOeBloe

        It’s not a strawman since the history is quite clear that Christians did behave this way when they had control. It’s why a separation of church and state is necessary. Try looking up what a real strawman argument is.

  • http://www.laughinginpurgatory.com/ Andrew Hall

    I just heard on NPR that the Turkish government is hoping to put more restrictions on abortion, too.

    • B.

      Turkish Prime Minister equated the abortion to premeditated murder. Government is planning to ban abortion. One minister even had told “if a woman raped she should deliver the child”. Disgusting comment. One other ruling party member, he happens to be the  mayor of capital Ankara, told that “if a woman get raped why should we kill the baby. Woman should kill herself.” Turkey seems to be a modern islamic country but it is spiraling down to the middle ages. 

  • DG

    Could someone please tell me where in the US you can be hurt professionally for being an atheist, other than the obvious working for a religious institution?  Where I work, under the flags of diversity, we are told to do what we can to keep our religion to ourselves.  You can have a religious calendar or the like, but don’t feel inclined to share it, especially if it makes other uncomfortable.  Things like gay rights and abortion rights are actively promoted, but it’s been made clear that anything done or said that could make folks feel uncomfortable regarding those issues could lead to discipline including, but not limited to, termination.  My wife’s place of employment held the same basic standards.
    Meanwhile, in my boys’ high school, where the Fellowship of Christian Athletes must meet outside the building to pray, the school’s secular club (under freethinkers) and gay-straight alliance proudly use the facilities of the building.  Plus, my boys frequently have told me of taunting and outright ridicule they receive for their faith, including saying quiet prayers at lunch.  So unless we’re in some strange fluke zone in America (the Midwest), where atheism reigns and religion is increasingly told to stay in the closet, I’m missing  the rivers of blood from the martyrs of atheism that atheists seem to dwell upon.

    • Chadachada123

       Er, you can easily Google stories of atheists in the US being disowned by their families and losing their friends, and in small towns where everyone knows everyone else, it could be a death sentence if you own a small business.

      Aside from this, if you believe in evolution, you won’t be elected into public office in several states, period. The governal race in (Alabama?) several years ago had a big mess when one candidate accused another of not believing in creationism, and this was apparently a big deal for a lot of the stupid fucks down there.

      The MidWest is a godsend compared to some parts of the deep south.

      • DG

        My sons know youth who are attending Church services who are all but disowned by their non-religious parents.   I’m not saying it’s right, but as long as atheists want to say ‘why worry’ to things that they say is wrong when applied to them, it suggests atheists really aren’t against such attitudes per se, they’re only against them when aimed at atheism.  If I were an atheist, I’d say, ‘you know, you’re right.  That type of treatment is always wrong, no matter who it’s aimed at.’ 

        • Jinx

          The phenomena you’re describing is not unique to members of any particular belief system. It’s simply an extreme behavioral manifestation of the feelings every parent experiences when their children’s beliefs deviate from those they themselves hold. And as you mentioned already, it is indeed wrong to disown one’s children over something like that. After all, what they perceive to be some kind of religious devotion (or conversely, sinfulness for religious parents) could very well just be curiosity or a phase, as is often the case with young people.

        • Marco Conti

          There is a matter of degree and generalizing can be dangerous. I brought up my daughter in a non religious environment. 
          Nevertheless, I have had plenty of friends and relatives that took it upon themselves to take her to mass, religious camp and other religiously oriented activities over the years. 
          Beside being a bit upset at the lack of respect for my family’s belief set, I always let her go. Turns out that pastors and priests are their worst enemy when a religiously unsophisticated child comes in contact with them. They did their best to make religion more distasteful than I could ever had if I tried.

          However, it would have been possible for one of them to succeed and recruit my daughter in their religion. In fact, after her 16th birthday, I had a chance to test my integrity in that matter when my daughter started frequenting a local church with her friends. 
          I wasn’t happy, but I left her alone. If she had asked me for anything (as she did in the past) I would answer according to my beliefs, but she didn’t ask.

          As it turned out, she was not moved and she is what I call an “apatheistic” to this day. She doesn’t give a crap one way or another and she counts among her friends both atheists and very religious people.

          But if she decided to join a religion, it would not have been up to me to dissuade her as long as I could make the parental judgment that she was doing it because of her convictions and out of her own free will.

          I would not have been happy but her life is not about my happiness.

          It would have been completely different if she joined some sort of fundamental cult that tried to brainwash her. 
          If I saw that joining a certain church changed who she was radically and in a very short time I would have taken steps to at least slow down the process to make sure she wasn’t being taken advantage of. 

          Considering the demographics here in the USA, I have to deduce that the number of teens that have to keep their religious affiliation secret from their parent are a tiny minority compared to those that want to break the shackles of religion. This is elementary statistics. 

          Regardless of numbers, it is wrong for parents to disown a child because of their religion or lack thereof. I will agree with that. Now, what would your reaction be if one of your kids come back from school one day and says to you:
          “Dad, I am an Atheist!”

        • http://www.poetrypoem.com/musicman Tnmusicman

          That’s right. It goes both ways. Remember Madalynn Murray O’Hair? She disowned her son and said he was now dead to her just for becoming a Christian. Oh, but lets not being up the not so nice things atheists do.

    • Nick Blow

      Ah, the typical “persecuted Christian”. Being an atheist is regarded as being as bad as being a rapist in some states, and the gay suicide rates are incredibly high. You’re still the majority, stop whining about how people are persecuting you, when there are people being disowned and emotionally abused by people (and sometimes even their own parents). for being gay

      • DG

        What states?  By the way, gay suicides are incredibly high in countries in Europe that fully support gay marriage.  If you’re saying all this is fine, then you’re saying all this is fine, it’s only bad if directed at the ‘wrong people.’  And at least that’s honest of you.

        • Glasofruix

           “gay suicides are incredibly high in countries in Europe that fully support gay marriage”

          Uh source please? I live in a european country that supports gay marriage and i never heard about gay people killing themselves because of their homosexuality.

        • Glasofruix

           Hey i’m still waiting for that source or was it another of your made up stories?

          • Mohammad

            you’re gay

        • Glasofruix

          No sources? How unsurprising…

    • Erp

       If the Fellowship of Christian Athletes is receiving different treatment then the freethinkers group, then they have grounds to legally protest.  May I ask whether they are gathering outside to pray before school starts but they are free to meet after school hours inside as do other clubs (assuming that is the usual time for school clubs to meet).    I assume the taunting and ridicule are from fellow students (if from teachers or school employees, again you have grounds to legally protest).  Even taunting from students is grounds especially if your school has an anti-harrassment policy and the taunting breaches this.

    • Marco Conti

      While you are looking for the sources for the Gay suicides ( I have no doubt you can produce them but I would not read much more than not everyone in Europe turned from  homophobic bigotry to enlightenment) I would love to know where this fantastic school is. Like a name. 

  • HughInAz

    I visited Turkey several times during the 90′s and was impressed with what a friendly, tolerant country it was. It makes me sad to see it going down the Islamist road, banning the teaching of evolution, censoring debate and art, and now this. The modern Turkish state has a long and proud tradition of secularism which is in growing danger, so I would hate to see Turkey written off by the west and coming under the thumb of the mullahs.

  • http://www.youtube.com/user/GodVlogger/featured GodVlogger (on YouTube)

    This is similar to ~ September 2011, when Turkey arrested cartoonist Bahadır Baruter for drawing a cartoon of a mosque (with a guy on a cell phone and a banner on the mosque wall saying “Allah is not real. Religion is a lie.”).

    I have had a tough time following his story, but their was a threat of one year in a Turkish prison, just for drawing a cartoon.

    Turkey is
    violating his human rights and freedom of speech. Such
    prosecution/imprisonment also violates Turkey’s secular constitution and
    Turkey’s Kemalist Ideology.

    Government should be neutral on religious
    matters, not favoring religion by intervening to put a human into a
    Turkish prison just for drawing a cartoon or making a joke on Twitter.

    It is insane for a modern
    country to act this way. 

    Is the best way to get Turkey’s attention to start a BOYCOTT against tourism travel to Turkey???

    • KLS

      He didn`t arrested. He was sued as same as Say.

  • Keulan

    I’m confused. I was under the impression that Turkey is a secular country.

    • Stev84

      The US is a secular country too….on paper only.

      There has always been a certain tension between secular and religious forces in Turkey. But it has become pretty bad in the last 15 years or so with the religious ones winning more and more

  • judith sanders

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/05/16/turkey-eu-accession-hollande-renewed-interest-european-union_n_1521158.html“Turkey is showing renewed interest in reviving its stalled bid to join the European Union, now that one of its key opponents is no longer the president of France. ”
    Good luck with that.

  • nardo101

    When I saw this post, I wondered if it was *that* Fazil Say, but yeah, it is. He’s actually Turkey’s best known classical pianist and someone who might be considered one of their most respected cultural ambassadors to the rest of the world.

    I think it’s a bad sign of how far the fundamentalists have come the; being able to bully a very prominent cultural figure.

  • Edy

    I wonder how many years of jail they will give me for mocking the Koran, I mean, there’s a lot to joke about. They think that the sun sets in some hot mud, and that earth is flat, and that the mountains sustain the sky… :D


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