Authorities in Tajikistan are taking a leaf out of Ebenezer Karimov’s book and forbidding Santa Claus – or Father Frost, as he’s known in the Russian-speaking tradition – from appearing on television this holiday season.
Last year arch-rival Uzbekistan, presided over by President Islam Karimov, banned the beloved Father Frost from New Year’s broadcasts in efforts to shield Uzbeks from foreign influences and invent a unique Uzbek “culture.”
New Year’s remains one of the most popular holidays throughout the former Soviet Union, celebrated with family meals and fireworks. The robed Father Frost (“Ded Moroz”) brings children gifts, much as Santa Claus does on Christmas Day in the West. But the New Year’s holiday is entirely secular.
The new ban in Tajikistan applies to Father Frost, his maiden sidekick Snegurochka, and Christmas trees, Radio Ozodi reported on December 5. (The ban applies to state television, but Tajikistan has no independent television stations. Many people watch Russian satellite TV.)
In recent years, some Islamic clergy have complained that the New Year holiday, with its Christian undertones, is not appropriate for a Muslim country like Tajikistan.
But the ban is not a nod to the clergy, Dilafruz Amirkulova, deputy head of Tajikistan’s Committee for Television and Radio Broadcasting, told Radio Ozodi: “Our main holiday, in general, is Navruz. Of course we respect holidays of other people, but our real holiday is Navruz,” the Persian New Year, which is celebrated on the vernal equinox in March.
Turkish classical musician Fazil Say is best known for his piano work, but it's the actions he took using a computer keyboard that have thrust him into the limelight in an unexpected -- and disturbing -- way.
Yesterday, Say -- who has received rave reviews for his playing and has performed in concert halls around the world -- was given by an Istanbul court a suspended 10-month prison sentence for insulting Islam and offending Muslims -- in Twitter posts. Although he was spared the indignity of being sent to jail, Say could find himself locked up if he is convicted of similar offenses during the next five years.
The offending tweets? In one, Say forwarded an excerpt from an 11-th century poem written by the famed Omar Khayyam. “You say that the rivers flow with wine, is heaven a tavern? You say that you will give every believer two very beautiful women, is heaven a brothel?” the poem says. In another tweet, the pianist -- a self-declared atheist -- suggests the rapid call to prayer he heard coming from a nearby Istanbul mosque might have been given by a muezzin eager to get his work done and head out for a drink.
Looking at the case in a piece for the Al-Monitor website, Orhan Kemal Cengiz, a well-known civil rights lawyer in Turkey, suggests Say's conviction is part of a disturbing trend in Turkey regarding the prosecution of those deemed to have insulted religion or Islam. From Cengiz's article:
Along with his suggestion that abortion may soon be banned, the other bombshell that mercurial Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan recently dropped was that his government is planning to build a massive mosque up on one of Istanbul's highest hills, designed so that it could be seen from almost every part of the city. Reports the Hurriyet Daily News:
“We are going to build a mosque over 15,000 meters square next to the broadcasting tower in Çamlıca. The planning work is nearing completion. I believe the bulldozers will begin working within two months. This giant mosque in Çamlıca was designed so as to be visible from all parts of Istanbul,” Erdoğan said late May 29, while speaking at the opening ceremony of a traditional handicrafts center in the nearby district of Kandilli.
Foundations General Director Adnan Ertem, Istanbul Governor Hüseyin Avni Mutlu, Police Chief Hüseyin Çapkın, Üsküdar Mayor Mustafa Kara and Emine Erdoğan, the prime minister’s wife, also attended yesterday’s ceremony.
The mosque complex will also include facilities underneath the building for traditional crafts, such as “hat” (Turkish calligraphy) and gilding, Erdoğan said. “In other words, just as there used to be madrasahs next to [mosques] in the past, our architects have undertaken to design something similar in this contemporary setting.”