Turkey: Fazil Say contemplates exile, 'insulted as atheist'

Pianist and composer may escape Islamic pressures to Japan

23 April, 20:39

(ANSAmed) - ANKARA, APRIL 23 - One of Turkey's best known artists internationally, pianist and composer Fazil Say has said he has been thinking for some time of moving to Japan because of the pressure he is under in an Islamic environment, where his statements about atheism are causing him trouble.

''Even though we are speaking the same language, we fail to communicate, ''Mr Say is reported as saying on the English language site of Turkey's Hurriyet newspaper. ''The best thing to do is to keep away for some time. I would like to go to Japan, but I don't know if I will be able to do so,'' as ''it's too far away'' and living there ''means reducing the number of concerts given in Europe and in Turkey. And of course, I want to see my daughter growing up and she will remain here,'' in Turkey.

According to the summary given in Hurriyet, Mr Say spoke of how it has become difficult to live in Turkey over recent years, where he has been exposed to insults over opinions he has expressed on Twitter.

As the AFP agency cites from the hard copy of the newspaper, this is a reference to ''when I said I was an atheist'', ''I was insulted. The law intervened over what I had said on Twitter. I am perhaps the first person in the world to have come under a judicial inquiry for having expressed my atheism''. Given the three month prison sentence Turkish law reserves for the crime of ''insulting religious values'', ''if I am sentenced to imprisonment, my career will be over,'' the 41-year-old musician said.

A leading MP in the prime minister's party, Samil Tayyar, insulted Mr Say by saying that his mother was ''an escapee from a brothel''. The phrase itself gave rise to controversy. The pianist also said that lay people have become a minority in Turkey that is exposed to pressure from an Islamic majority which is imposing its own religious values more and more openly.

''I habe been shut out of Turkish society 100%''.

According to the Hurriyet website, the musician has lived in the USA for seven years and is currently writing his third symphony (''Evren'', the Universe) which follows those with the titles: ''Istanbul'' and '''Mesopotamia''. The latter symphony is to be performed in Istanbul on June 23, while Evren is scheduled to be premiered in Austria in October.

Declared by its leading politicians to be ''99%'' Muslim, Turkey has a secular constitution drawn up by its founder Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, who proclaimed the republic in 1923 on the rubble of the Ottoman Empire.

Over the past fifteen years, Turkey's internal politics has partly seen a rediscovery of the nation's Muslim soul, by Premier Erdogan. The case of Say forms part of a series of frictions between secular values, which are defended by the country's military cadre and Islamic ones, represented by the AKP party of the Premier, which is enlarging the space inside the country for religious conservatism. (ANSAmed)

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