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Turkish court convicts classical pianist of insulting Islam

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World-renowned Turkish pianist Fazil Say has been given a suspended 10-month prison sentence for insulting Muslim values.

An Istanbul court found Say guilty of denigrating religion through comments he made on the social networking site Twitter, his lawyer said on Monday.

The 43-year-old musician, who has played with the New York Philharmonic, the Berlin Symphony and other world orchestras, was on trial for sending tweets last year, including one that joked about a religious leader and some Islamic practices…

The court ordered a “supervised release” for Say, meaning that he would be free as long as he did not commit a similar crime within five years…The sentence was reduced to 10 months from 12 months due to good behaviour in court.

“We reject the charges against us but the decision is the court’s,” the musician’s lawyer told the court..

Say was not in court for the sentencing. But he denied the charges, saying they were politically motivated.

He is the latest in a series of intellectuals and artists to be prosecuted in Turkey for expressing opinions and his case has raised further concerns over rights and freedoms in the country, a democracy with a mostly Muslim population that seeks membership in the European Union.

Say, who is due to perform in Germany on Monday evening according to his website, is a strong critic of the Islamic-rooted government of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, a devout Muslim who expounds conservative values, alarming some secular Turks who fear the government plans to make religion part of their lifestyle…

If Turkey hopes to join a democratic assembly like the European Union that nation’s government will have to grow into the 20th Century – if not the 21st – and understand that democracy can be impertinent and even disrespectful.

It isn’t unusual for True Believers in any religion to wish to silence critics of their beliefs, lifestyle and sometimes hypocritical regulations. It isn’t considered the norm or acceptable in modern society for government to act as agent for that religion.

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Written by Ed Campbell

April 16, 2013 at 8:00 am

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