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:
I am graduated from Imam Hatip School (proud). For me all singers and artists must be respected respected, even though i live in different worlds/parallels. They must learn to respect us too. Gülşen should have not mentioned those words for Imam hatip students. Unacceptable!!
— Mustafa Orhan (@xMUSTAFAORHANx) August 25, 2022
Still its ignorant to make such a statement. Not everyone graduated from Imam Hatip is the same and its targeting a group of People based on their belief practices. We dont want such a discourse anymore. Its the last thing we need in the country, tension is already at its highest
— Çok_Saçma (@not_here_4_dat) August 24, 2022
Gülşen insulted our Imam Hatip schools, from which millions of our people graduated, from which they received education and training with our national and spiritual values. No one can insult our values in the guise of an artist.
— Baki Özgül 🇹🇷 (@baki_ozgul) August 27, 2022
This has nothing to do with government or her clothes. Imam hatip schools issue is already sensitive and she insulted imam hatip schools by saying people graduated from imam hatip schools are perverts. This is well deserved.
— Usagi (@usagitheodango) August 25, 2022
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:
My heart breaks for all who live in countries without freedom of speech. @gulsen — an artist and liberated woman and advocate for democracy and LGBTQ ally —
made a joke about religious schools and sex. The Turkish government didn’t laugh. Instead, they arrested her. #freegulsen pic.twitter.com/5etFxNNRKU
— Olivia Nuzzi (@Olivianuzzi) August 27, 2022
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.
I checked and this is not a hoax, the Hampshire (UK) Police indeed arrested a guy because he posted a meme of a trans ‘flag’ shaped like a swastika. And then arrested another guy for filming the first arrest.
If your reaction is “but that speech is noxious!” then you failed. https://t.co/FE6yOkg4fe
— Jeff B. is *BOX OFFICE POISON* (@EsotericCD) July 31, 2022
The 1st Amendment is a hell of a thing, both as a law binding the government and a norm binding all of us in the public square of expression. Remember who wants to take it away from us or “manage” it, whichever side they’re on these days.
— Jeff B. is *BOX OFFICE POISON* (@EsotericCD) July 31, 2022
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 …
Hate speech is not comedy. Dave Chappelle is wildly talented. I love his work but I stopped in the middle of his last special due to the hateful content toward trans people. Dave & people who defend him sustain hatred & violence toward trans people. Not funny. Not “real” comedy
— Evolve Undefined (@Evolv_undefined) October 16, 2021
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