Pianist’s Sentence Is the Latest Example of Turkey’s Slide Towards an Islamic Theocracy

Today, Fazil Say, 43, a famous Turkish pianist who has played with the New York Philharmonic and other world-renowned orchestras, got a 10-month suspended prison term. A Turkish court handed down the verdict after it found that Say had mocked Islam on Twitter. If he reoffends in the next five years, he’ll be put behind bars.


And what awful, shocking, impermissible things he wrote. See for yourself:

In one tweet, Say joked about a call to prayer that he said lasted only 22 seconds. Say tweeted: “Why such haste? Have you got a mistress waiting or a raki on the table?”

Raki, popular in Turkey when I visited a few decades ago, is akin to what the French call Pastis — an alcoholic drink with a sweet aniseed flavor. Alcohol is forbidden under Islam.

Another of Say’s tweets noted that Muslims are promised wine and virgins if they go to paradise (extra-marital fornication is also an Islamic no-no), and Say asked, prickly but not unreasonably, whether that meant that heaven is closer to a tavern or a brothel.

So some Islamist jackass sued.

Emre Bukagili, a citizen who filed the initial complaint against Say, said in an emailed statement that the musician had used “a disrespectful, offensive and impertinent tone toward religious concepts such as heaven and the call to prayer.”

And this harms you how, Sir? Why not tweet a witty retort, or a Qur’anic verse if you prefer, and call it a draw? You know, like they do in grownup countries?

What angers me most about this affair is that the Turkish government pretends to be pained by the whole thing — and claims to have nothing to do with it.

“I would not wish anyone to be put on trial for words that have been expressed. This is especially true of artists and cultural figures,” Culture and Tourism Minister Omer Celik said. “But… this is a judicial decision.”

This would be encouraging if it wasn’t so patently disingenuous. Turkey, though often considered to be westernized and modern, has a nasty habit of harassing and prosecuting domestic critics.

Two years ago, it convicted the only Nobel Prize winner it ever produced, the novelist Orhan Pamuk, for mentioning the Armenian genocide in an interview with a Swiss magazine. Pamuk was first put on trial for “offending Turkishness” and “offending the Armed Forces,” charges that were later lessened to violations against individual Turks’ “honor.”

Elif Shafak, perhaps the only other contemporary writer to enjoy literary fame beyond Turkey’s borders, was prosecuted for similar reasons.

There can be no doubt that this is condoned, if not encouraged, at the highest level.

Consider that making fun of Islamic prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan is especially hazardous. The British collage artist Michael Dickinson, an Istanbul resident, spent three days in jail and was then made to endure a four-year legal ordeal after he portrayed Erdogan as George W. Bush’s lapdog.


A Turkish court ordered him not to insult the Dear Leader again or pay a $3,000 fine. (This was an improvement over the 14 months in jail that the judge had initially imposed on the satirist.)

I could give many such examples, but the Wall Street Journal already published a jaw-dropping roundup here, noting that Erdogan is “suing perhaps hundreds of private individuals for insulting him.”

It’s loopy enough for a 21st-century head of state to be mortally insulted by cartoons and art works and songs that are insufficiently reverential toward him; but the offense-taking is especially chilling when, subsequently, all of religion is de facto declared off-limits.

Erdogan is on record as saying that he will “raise a pious generation,” and he’s been very diligent in that regard. Notes Ankara-based journalist Sibel Utku Bila:

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has almost daily tirades to deliver. His anger has boiled over … over a sculpture not to his liking, a rock festival that offered beer to university students, and a soap opera chronicling lustful intrigues in an Ottoman harem. The premier’s outbursts are not without consequences: The “freakish” sculpture has been demolished, the rock festival has gone dry, and the fictional sultan’s household has started praying.

Religion-based censorship, Bila adds, comes in many forms in Turkey, and “often needs no law to thrive on.”

Like several years ago, when public broadcaster TRT chose not to include “Winnie the Pooh” in a major purchase of Disney cartoons because one of its main heroes, Piglet, was an animal deemed unclean in Islam. Or more recently, when a TRT presenter narrating the closing ceremony of the 2012 London Olympics omitted John Lennon’s appeal for “no religion” when he translated the lyrics of “Imagine,” one of the songs featured in the show.

Up and down the chain of command, judges and bureaucrats are getting the message.

Take, for instance, the $30,000 fine for “insulting religious values” that Turkey’s broadcasting watchdog meted out to a private TV channel in December. The broadcaster had dared show an episode of The Simpsons in which God was shown taking orders from the devil.

I suppose you don’t have to be a religious nanny to not find that funny, but it helps.

[portrait of Fazil Say via hr-online.de]

Saudi Busybody Buzzkill Told To Buzz Off

A report in Gulf News says that a member of the Saudi religious police was forcibly removed from a concert. (Job description when you’re a religious cop: being a holier-than-thou douche by telling other people what is and isn’t suitably Islamic.)

The man was filmed being led away by uniformed members of the Saudi National Guard.

An employee of the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice, the [Saudi] religious police, was removed from the UAE pavilion at Riyadh’s annual Janadriya cultural festival after he tried to stop a folkloric show performed by young Emiratis, claiming that it was “un-Islamic”.

A short video clip circulated on the internet showed servicemen from the National Guard escorting the man out of the stand while excited spectators could be heard cheering.

The appreciative cheers and jeers are a positive sign. Maybe the Saudi people have had enough of these busybody bluestockings, and are no longer afraid to show it.

Orthodox U.S. Bishop Out in Harassment Scandal

Surprisingly few details are available about the nature of Bishop Matthias’ wrongdoings. The case involves harassing emails and text messages he sent to a female follower, but the church has managed to keep it all under wraps. Apparently, though, the bishop’s misconduct was grave enough that Church authorities forced his ouster.

Unable to overcome the disgrace of a sexual misconduct accusation, Bishop Matthias, head of the local diocese for the Orthodox Church of America, has announced he will step down Monday, leaving a vacancy in Chicago just weeks before Orthodox Christians celebrate Easter on May 5.

On a leave of absence since allegations of inappropriate communication with a woman surfaced in August, Matthias, 64, would have celebrated his two-year anniversary as leader of the church in Chicago and the Midwest this week. In a letter to parishioners Sunday, the bishop asked for forgiveness. ….


When he was placed on administrative leave last year, Matthias said he had been accused of “unwelcome written and spoken comments to a woman that she regarded as an inappropriate crossing of personal boundaries.”

A national church investigation did conclude that Bishop Matthias had committed sexual harassment.

The accusation also generated an outcry from a number of clergy’s wives in the diocese. About 30 women signed a letter to the Holy Synod expressing concern about the bishop’s behavior.

[image via aoiusa.org]

Halal Meat: Muslim Sex Tourists in India Buy and Marry Girls, Fuck Them, Get Built-In Divorce After Four Weeks. 100% Approved By Allah!

What if you’re a Muslim and you want some nookie with someone other than your wife? You can’t go to a prostitute — Allah hates that.

India’s rent-a-wife industry to the rescue! Tourist-friendly! Allah-approved! Perfectly halal!

You see, in India’s Hyderabad and environs, it’s not hard to find marriageable girls who can be talked into one month of wedlock for a couple of thousand dollars.

According to the Telegraph,

[W]ealthy foreigners, local agents and ‘Qazis’ — government-appointed Muslim priests — are exploiting poverty among the city’s Muslim families.

We learn how the scheme works from one of the quasi-wives — an underage girl not keen on being bedded by a “husband” older than her father — who came forward to tell her story.

She escaped from her home last month after her parents pressured her to consummate a forced marriage to a middle aged Sudanese man who had paid around £1,200 for her to be his ‘wife’ for four weeks.

She told police she had been taken by her aunt to a hotel where she and three other teenager girls were introduced to a Sudanese oil company executive. The ‘groom’, Usama Ibrahim Mohammed, 44 and married with two children in Khartoum, later arrived at her home where a Qazi performed a wedding ceremony.


According to Inspector Vijay Kumar, he [Mohammed] had paid 100,000 Rupees (around £1,200) to the girl’s aunt Mumtaz Begum, who in turn paid 70,000 Rupees to her parents, 5,000 Rupees to the Qazi, 5,000 Rupees to an Urdu translator, and kept 20,000 Rupees herself. The wedding certificate came with a ‘Talaknama,’ which fixed the terms of the divorce at the end of the groom’s holiday.

Local cops explain that

visitors want to marry because they believe prostitution is forbidden under Islam. Poor families agree to contract marriages because they have many daughters and cannot afford to pay for all their weddings. Instead, they have a series of one-month contract ‘marriages’ to fund their own genuine wedding.

Shiraz Amina Khan, of Hyderabad’s Women and Child Welfare Society, said there were up to 15 ‘contract marriages’ in the city every month and that the number is rising.

The practice, known as Nikah al-Mut’ah, is widely accepted especially among Shia Muslims. Quoth Wikipedia:

Nikāḥ al-Mutʿah (pleasure marriage) is a fixed-term or short-term marriage in Shia Islam, where the duration and compensation are both agreed upon in advance. It is a private and verbal marriage contract between a man and an unmarried woman and there must be declaration and acceptance as in the case of nikah. The length of the contract and the amount of consideration must be specified. There is no minimum or maximum duration for the contract, so it can be as short as a few minutes.

[image via truthandgrace.com]

Church Hires Dick-Biting Priest Who is a Known Ex-Con: Shocked When He Does It Again

For a non-believer, it’s hard to see evidence of God’s hand in anything from angel-shaped clouds to eyeball-eating parasites.

But it’s easy to believe in the magic that the Catholic Church habitually produces when it slaps a priest’s white collar on a convicted sex offender. In such a case, in a manner of seconds, a scum-of-the-earth child molester is transformed into a divinely inspired authority on right and wrong. It truly is miraculous to behold.

Via the Los Angeles Times:

When the Rev. John Anthony Salazar arrived in Tulia, Texas, in 1991, he was warmly welcomed by the Roman Catholic community tucked in the Texas Panhandle. What his new parishioners didn’t know was he’d been hired out of a treatment program for pedophile priests — and that he’d been convicted for child molestation and banned from the Archdiocese of Los Angeles for life.

The priest turned out to be your typical recidivist.

Over the next 11 years, Salazar would be accused of abusing four more children and young men in Texas, including an 18-year-old parishioner who suffered teeth marks on his genitals.


None of it should have been surprising. In 1987, Salazar had pleaded guilty to one count of oral copulation and one count of lewd or lascivious acts with a child for molesting two altar boys, ages 13 and 14.

He served three years of a six-year prison term before being sent in 1990 to a residential program in New Mexico that treated pedophile priests. He was also required to register as a sex offender.

One year later, the Diocese of Amarillo hired Salazar and assigned him to a vast, rural parish in the Panhandle while he was still on parole.

The bishop of the Catholic diocese, Leroy Matthiesen of Amarillo, seemed mildly offended when L.A. Cardinal Roger Mahony warned him in writing about the pedophile priest.

“You must think I don’t screen applicants well. I assure you I do, and that I have rejected a number of them,” Matthiesen wrote Mahony in a Jan. 28, 1992, letter contained in Salazar’s archdiocese file. “The Diocese of Amarillo has 38 parish priests and 38,000 registered Catholics. … I am able to keep careful tabs on all our priests.”

The self-regard is staggering. Four fresh Texas victims would soon experience how scrupulous Matthiesen was in “keeping tabs” on Father Salazar.

Matthiesen died in 2010, but in an autobiography he defended his decision to hire molesting priests from the aftercare program, saying they had “repented, paid the price, were rehabilitated, stayed within the boundaries laid out for them.” … “These are the types of priests I accepted into the diocese,” he wrote. “I have no regrets for having done so.”

Although the good bishop was thoroughly informed of Salazar’s background, neither he nor any of his colleagues ever bothered to tell the priest’s parishioners who they were dealing with.

The Church, as has so often been the case, considered itself exempt from the reporting requirements regarding sex offenders, and claims the privilege of dealing with all manner of crimes internally.

No secular justice system can compel it; no accountability is in evidence; and no future victim’s mental and bodily integrity is important enough to change any of it.

4/14 Christians: ‘Grab ’em While They’re Young’

Today is Global 4/14 Day, a Christian, non-denominational initiative to push children as young as four years to accept the Lord Jesus Christ as their personal savior. The group’s slogan is “One million Christians praying for two billion children.”

The official 4/14 website has a helpful FAQ:

What is the 4/14 Window?

The 4/14 Window refers to all children between the ages of 4 to 14. During this decade or “window,” most children in this demographic develop their moral and spiritual foundations.

Why do mission strategists consider this age group so important?

There are 2.3 billion children on earth under age 15 and they represent the largest unreached people group in the world. Boys and girls in the 4/14 Window are given priority because they are more open and receptive to the gospel than older youth and adults. [emphasis added] Nearly 85% of people who make a decision for Christ, do so between the ages of 4 to 14!

In other words, when they’re young and impressionable, they’ll swallow a helluva lot more than after they begin to think for themselves. At least the spiritual child-grabbers are honest about it.

Though I’m the dad of two rather bright girls, I don’t think that four- or five-year-olds can make significant decisions beyond Curious George or Goodnight Moon, or beyond, say, Cheerios or Frosted Flakes.


But of course I would never begrudge kids who aren’t yet old enough to tie their own shoes the chance to become this:

Previous Moral Compass article on religious child indoctrination here.

[Cartoon by Matthew Inman via The Oatmeal]

Justin Bieber Woos Dead Jewish Girl

We were told earlier this week that Justin Bieber’s “spiritual roots go deep.” The Canadian teen idol was praised extensively by his pastor, Judah Smith, who called him “a spectacular young man.” Smith, who’s been peddling a new book called Jesus Is that, coincidentally, was endorsed by Bieber, says that the two “bond over the Bible” and “share Scriptures on a regular basis.”

That’s sweet.

Bieber’s spirituality was on full display yesterday, when he visited Amsterdam’s Anne Frank House and summed up his reverent thoughts in the guestbook — as follows:

Truly inspiring to be able to come here. Anne was a great girl. Hopefully she would have been a belieber.

German fans are awaiting Bieber’s arrival for a concert in Berlin, where he is expected to re-enact John F. Kennedy’s famous speech, “Ich bin ein Belieber.”


Oh, also:

Indonesian Sharia Cops Harass Motorbike Harlots

For as long as women have mounted saddles, men have worried about the morality of it.

It started with horseback riding.

Riding astride anything had always been problematic — girls sitting astride while playing with toys such as a hobby horse was frowned upon, and it was partly because of sexual concerns that women rode side-saddle on horses.

Bicycles were no different. Victorian-era physicians warned that

the bicycle inevitably promoted immodesty in women, and could potentially harm their reproductive systems. Other critics argued that women bicyclists favored shorter skirts, thus “inviting” insults and advances. Moreover, by tilting the bicycle seat, they could “beget or foster the habit of masturbation.”

Ah, the good old pre-vibrator days.

You might think you’d have a hard time finding anyone today who still has such concerns, but that just means you’ve never heard of Suaidi Yahya, a Muslim in Aceh, Indonesia. Mr. Yahya was so bothered by the immoral spectacle of women sitting astride scooters and motorbikes, that, as the mayor of Lhokseumawe, he decreed this was against Islam.

In January, it became the law: no woman in Yahya’s city may ride a motorcycle, not even as a passenger, unless she rides side-saddle (both legs on one side) and wears something other than pants, and that garment doesn’t reveal the shape of her legs or buttocks.


No matter that riding side-saddle makes it more difficult to keep your balance; and no matter that loose, flowing clothes may get caught in whirring spokes. What’s a bunch of injured or dead females when you’ve got Allah to please?

Mr. Yahya, never one to let lawlessness fester, asked the Sharia police to enforce the ban (Aceh is currently the only Indonesian problem where Sharia is the law). And so, two days ago,

Thirty-five women in Lhokseumawe have been let off with a warning after the Sharia police caught them straddling a motorcycle and not wearing appropriate Islamic dress.

The Sharia police were conducting a raid on the main roads of Lhokseumawe on Friday, to monitor the administration’s bylaw that prohibits female passengers from straddling motorcycles. … While the women were not arrested, they were warned to not straddle a motorcycle again and to not wear tight outfits.

Lhokseumawe mayor Suaidi Yahya explained that the bylaw was expected to discourage women from wearing pants in public. He said that the bylaw was needed because he had seen people’s behavior and morals straying too far from Aceh’s Islamic cultural values. “We wish to honor women with this ban,” he said, “because they are delicate creatures.”

It could be worse, and in the Gaza Strip, it is. There, Hamas rulers decided in 2009 to ban women from scooters and motorbikes altogether. At the time,

Spokesman Ehab Al-Ghsain said [that] “men carrying women behind them on motorcycles caused accidents and did not match our social traditions. The image looked odd.”

[images via saltyscooterstories]

Irish Catholic Madrassas Skimp on Science and PE

The curriculum in Irish schools suggests that educators and the government agree on at least one thing: “Science bad, religion good.”

Elementary-school teachers in Ireland spend double the time on religious instruction that is the global average. (That comparison presumably includes hardcore Islamic madrassas in places like Somalia and Pakistan).

Amazingly enough, that’s mostly the result of Department of Education guidelines that say children must receive 30 minutes of religious instruction a day — two and a half hours a week. Then add church and Sunday school on the weekends, natch.

Even so, more than two-thirds of Irish teachers apparently don’t find that nearly enough, and spend additional minutes or hours on religion, at the expense of science and physical education.


Now, one saner mind is questioning the imbalance.

Education Minister Ruairi Quinn has questioned the amount of time spent teaching children religion in primary schools at the expense of science and physical education (PE). Department of Education rules require primary schools to devote 30 minutes a day – two-and- a-half-hours a week – to religion, compared with 60 minutes a week for science and PE. A recent Irish National Teachers Organisation (INTO) survey found over 70 percent of teachers were spending more than the required time on religion. The extra time usually goes on preparing children for sacraments such as First Communion and Confirmation.

Irish primary pupils spend 4 percent of their time on science – half the international average – and 10 percent on religion, more than double the global norm.

[image via coastreflect]

Happy Birthday Christopher Hitchens

He would have turned 64 today. I miss him.



Haredically Sealed For Their Protection

Did you see this picture of an Orthodox Jew on an airplane, who sealed himself in a plastic bag?


For his sake, we can only hope he didn’t eat a kosher bean burrito before the flight.

He is evidently a member of the Haredi sect, and although the Haredim go to ridiculous extremes to avoid contact with women, that wasn’t the motivation in this case.

First this: the fast-growing sect is creating huge problems in Israel, where their hobbies include vandalizing advertisements and spitting on women who dare to dress normally. Actually, it’s not limited to women — there are cases of Haredim spitting on girls as young as eight. That’s right; they show their godliness by hocking loogies at little girls.

Now, about that bag. Haredi high priests are not allowed to have any contact with dead bodies. Merely walking through a graveyard is prohibited. And they extend that proscription to flying over a graveyard. The plastic bag provides magical protection from any dead-body contamination that might somehow waft up 20,000 feet and pierce the airplane’s aluminum skin.

Pilots, surprisingly, are not too thrilled with this practice. For some reason, they’ve concluded that it’s not safe for passengers to travel in an air-tight plastic bag.

Although I usually oppose acquiescing to religious superstitions, in this case I think the airlines should not just allow it, but encourage it, as long as they put one rule in place: the bag must remained completely sealed for the duration of the fight.

I suspect that eight-year-old-girls who’ve received a facefull of Haredi phlegm would agree.

[image via Digital Journal]

Sister Agnes of Vienna Orgasmed While Dining on the Savior’s Foreskin; a Saint to Many

[Corrected  below]

I hope that some Vatican committee is planning to commemorate, preferably in grand fashion, the upcoming septuacentennial of Saint Agnes Blannbekin’s death.

Frankly, it’s not her death that was exceptional; she died of old age in her convent in Vienna, at 71.

However, her life as a thirteenth-century Bride of Christ — a nun — was nothing short of spectacular. You see, for decades, Agnes had lively hallucinations of being visited by Jesus or another member of the Holy Trinity. Any of these cherished guests inflamed her womanly passions in the most delightful way.

Luckily for us, Agnes’ visions were enthusiastically transcribed by her confessor, the Franciscan monk Ermenrich, and it is from his notes that we can see why Catholics became so smitten with her. Talk about loving Jesus!

In one recurring vision, Agnes felt the foreskin of the Savior in her mouth.


Crying and with compassion, she began to think about the foreskin of Christ, where it may be located [after the Resurrection]. And behold, soon she felt with the greatest sweetness on her tongue a little piece of skin alike the skin in an egg, which she swallowed. After she had swallowed it, she again felt the little skin on her tongue with sweetness as before, and again she swallowed it. And this happened to her about a hundred times. And when she felt it so frequently, she was tempted to touch it with her finger. And when she wanted to do so, that little skin went down her throat on its own. And it was told to her that the foreskin was resurrected with the Lord on the day of resurrection. And so great was the sweetness of tasting that little skin that she felt in all [her] limbs and parts of the limbs a sweet transformation.

If Sister Agnes got thirsty, a “refreshing spiritual drink” from the spear wound of Jesus was just a vision away. Many of her hallucinations involved her delicate sense of touch; other than feeling the Holy Prepuce on her tongue, she also claimed she could sometimes sense being kissed on the cheeks by the Lamb of God.

But nothing beat the visitations from the Lord (or the Lord Jesus). Ermenrich must have been fanning himself when he scribbled what the nun told him:

Agnes was filled with an excitement in her chest every time that God visited her that was so intense that it went through her body and that it burned as a result, not in a painful but in a most pleasurable manner.

Hawt, right?

Now, I know the Catholic Church has a reputation as an irredeemably misogynistic institution, but that could change if the padres play their cards right. What they ought to do is market the hell out of the Saint Agnes septuacentennial, such that, with any luck, spinsters and dissatisfied housewives all over the world will want to join the faith, sighing, “I’ll have what she’s having.”


CORRECTION: The original headline on this post stated that Sister Agnes had been canonized (made a saint) by the Church. Although there are many online and printed references to her as “Saint Agnes,” it’s been brought to my attention that throngs of believers have often proclaimed their own Saints (who could become very popular) without the Vatican’s sign-off.  This was most likely the case with Agnes Blannekin.

As is pointed out on the “Holy Prepuce” Wikipedia page I linked to right after the first quote, the Roman Catholic Church got so sick of (and embarrassed by) all the theological snipping sniping over which of Christ’s many foreskins was the genuine article, that it ruled in 1900 that

anyone thenceforward writing or speaking of the Holy Prepuce would be excommunicated. In 1954, after much debate, the punishment was changed to the harsher degree of excommunication, vitandi (shunned).

I have to concede — with apologies for my earlier error — that it seems unlikely that the Catholic Church will commemorate the Viennese foreskin-muncher any time soon. A terrible pity, that.

[illustration by Milo Manara via the Holy Prepuce]