A Turkish Imam Is Under Investigation and Could Be Fired For Singing in a Rock Band

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.

About Terry Firma

Terry Firma, though born and Journalism-school-educated in Europe, has lived in the U.S. for the past 20-odd years. Stateside, his feature articles have been published in the New York Times, Reason, Rolling Stone, Playboy, and Wired. Terry is the founder and Main Mischief Maker of Moral Compass, a site that pokes fun at the delusional claim by people of faith that a belief in God equips them with superior moral standards.

  • 3lemenope

    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.

    I like this guy already.

  • ShoeUnited

    It’s too bad the Turkish government doesn’t actually care about it’s people.

    When I asked why Turkey doesn’t like it’s people, why I can’t go back to Constantinople, and why Constantinople got the works I was told:
    It’s Nobody’s Business But The Turk’s

    Doo doo doo!

    • Tainda

      I used to sing that song constantly lol

  • flyb

    The sharif don’t like it. Rockin’ the casbah. Rock the… ah whatever.

  • http://www.youtube.com/user/GodVlogger?feature=mhee GodVlogger (on YouTube)

    I am sick and tired of Turkey with their blasphemy laws, etc.

    Whether they threaten to jail a cartoonist for drawing a cartoon of a mosque, or whether they threaten an actual Muslim Imam for him trying to honor his God via music, it is just insanity that the force of government gets involved in these things.

    These are EXACTLY the types of things that make any sane member of the European Union want to keep Turkey OUT, and make Secularists and Christians reluctant to spend our tourist dollars in Turkey.

    • 3lemenope

      I think the notion is that by inviting them in, the secularism will kinda rub off on them or something.

      • DavidMHart

        That and they’d come under the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice, which would in principle be able to overturn some of the divisive and sectarian legislation in Turkey that would be in conflict with EU legislation. Though in practice, how much compliance they’d get is not very knowable.

  • Burpy

    Well, if you’re going to take the Sultan’s shilling, you have to play by the Sultan’s rules I suppose.

    I imagine the Church of England would take a dim view if one of their vicars started giving belly dancing concerts.

  • http://bearlyatheist.wordpress.com/ Bear Millotts

    Those b@st@rds in the Turkish Gov’mt are screwing with his chances to win the “Battle of the Bands Istanbul.”

    His band is the dark horse in the running.

  • A3Kr0n

    But the Turkish US government — officially secular, but deeply entangled with Islam Christianity, holds interfaith community outreach programs so it can better channel tax dollars to those religious groups..
    Ya, off topic, but I’m still pissed off from the the other post :-)

  • Meryem Bigat

    I am Turkish myself, was born in the US and raised globally. It’s not that he wants to be a part time artist as a career. Its that people are not used to genres such as rock when it comes down to religious songs.
    Of course we have songs and genres based on religion but they’re usually classical and more relaxed toned. I personally don’t find his artistic genre wrong for what he does. But most devoted religious followers in Turkey are no always too familiar with rock culture, so he’s bringing something new to the table and as much as he has followers, he’s going to have haters. That’s just life.

  • Dug Dig

    Test your Faith!!! Read!!! You may never pray to God again!!!


  • Quintin van Zuijlen

    I think the major issue, besides Turkey’s non-secularism, is a breach of Tüzer’s free expression. On the job, he can be restricted in what views he expresses and how, but off it he almost certainly can’t. I’m fairly certain even Turkey acknowledges the right to free expression.