42-year-old Ahmet Muhsin Tüzer is a Turkish imam who likes rock music. In his spare time, he sings in a band, and it isn’t exactly death metal — more like the Islamic equivalent of Christian rock, and more
pap pop than rock at that:
Mr Tüzer … is planning to bring out an album with his band next month. One song is titled Mevlaya gel, or Come to God. “I want to celebrate Allah in every place,” he told Turkey’s Anadolu news agency. “I don’t think I have caused the slightest damage to my institution.”
But the Turkish government — officially secular, but deeply entangled with Islam — recently launched an investigation against Tüzer, because being an imam “is not just like any other job,” a spokesman explained. “Things that are viewed as normal when it comes to other civil servants are viewed differently with respect to imams.”
You read that right. Imams in Turkey are by definition civil servants,
… employed and paid by the General Directorate of Religious Affairs (Diyanet), a state institution that administers the country’s 80,000 mosques. If the investigation finds that Mr Tuzer’s hobby is incompatible with his calling as an imam, he could be fired if he does not stop his musical career. …The first concert of the band, Firock, in the town of Kas near Pinarkoy drew around a thousand people last month. Mr Tuzer told Turkish media he [subsequently] received hundreds of messages containing threats and complaints.
It probably doesn’t help that Tüzer is a Freddie Mercury fan — or that his wife is a Christian, in the first such union involving an imam employed by the Diyanet.
Christians tend to have a hard time of it in Turkey. The country has long disallowed, if not actively fought, the building of new churches (there’s been only one exception in the past 90 years that I’m aware of, and the government’s permission was widely seen as a political move meant to butter up the European Union, which Turkey desperately wants to join).
New mosques are, of course, no problem.
Then again: mosques headed by amateur rock singers? Those may not be so welcome either.