Pop star known as Turkey’s ‘Madonna’ thrown behind bars for joke about Islamic school system

A singer known as Turkey’s “Madonna” has been arrested for insulting the highly religious country’s Islamic school system, known as Imam Hatip.

Yet all Turkish pop star Gulsen Colakoglu did was tell a joke. She was specifically caught on video in April telling a joke about one of her musical colleagues.

“He studied at an Imam Hatip previously. That’s where his perversion comes from,” she said, according to Reuters.

The video went viral this week after Sabah, a pro-government newspaper, published it and also drew attention to Gulsen’s other “offensive” behavior, such as wearing “extremely low cut dresses and holding up an LGBT flag.”

As the video went viral, it triggered massive backlash:

The backlash eventually resulted in her arrest. It didn’t help that Turkey’s own president is himself a former Imam Hatip student.

“President Tayyip Erdogan, whose Islamist-rooted AK Party first came to power some 20 years ago, himself studied at one of the country’s first Imam Hatip schools, which were founded by the state to educate young men to be imams and preachers,” according to Reuters.

However, Gulsen’s arrest has also triggered a massive backlash in the other direction.

“After her arrest, social media posts showed Gulsen fans in a packed soccer stadium singing her songs in solidarity. The award-winning British-Turkish novelist Elif Shafak called for Gulsen’s release, as did other cultural figures,” according to CNN.

“I deeply regret the arrest of the artist @gulsen. She was targeted for boldly advocating for women’s rights, LGBT+ rights, secularism, democracy, and pluralism. This is a lynching campaign. It is neither lawful nor conscientious. Free at once. #gulsenserbestbırakılsın,” Shafak reportedly tweeted in Turkish.

Turkish pop star Tarkan also weighed in, reportedly writing on Twitter that “this injustice to Gulsen must end and Gulsen must be released immediately.”

Some of the backlash has come from the West, where the idea of someone being arrested for merely telling an “offensive” joke is ostensibly anathema:

Is it genuinely anathema to the West, though? Perhaps not, given that thanks to the growth of leftism, in some Western nations it is now illegal to say “offensive” things.

Earlier this very month, for instance, a British man was arrested for posting to social media a meme of a transgender flag shaped like a swastika.


And so the West isn’t as innocent as it pretends to be, not that this excuses Turkey’s authoritarian behavior — behavior which its government proudly stands by.

“Our Imam Hatip High Schools are our distinguished institutions that raise generations equipped with our national and moral values and have moral maturity. I strongly condemn this distorted language and the distorted mentality behind it, which targets our youth studying at our Imam Hatip Schools, and I find it unacceptable,” Turkish Minister of Treasury and Finance Dr. Nurettin Nebati reportedly wrote in a tweet.

AKP, the political party to which Erdogan belongs, likewise slammed Gulsen’s joke, saying “inciting hatred is not an art form.”

That’s ironic, because many leftists here in the United States often say virtually the exact same thing …


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Vivek Saxena


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