Turkey’s Rock n’Roll Imam

I never knew that this species existed Apparently in Turkey there is an Imam who also doubles up as a rock musician! Ahmet Muhsin Tuzer from a tiny hamlet on Turkey’s Mediterranean coast has run into trouble with the country’s powerful religious authorities — for his other life as a rock musician. Tuzer told AFP he is being investigated by the Diyanet, the state body in charge of the country’s mosques, over his activities. In a telephone interview from Pinarkoy, a tiny community near the Mediterranean beach resort of Kas, he said that although he is awaiting the results of the investigation, he is going to continue making music no matter what. He plans to go to the courts to continue his music career.

The Diyanet is looking to determine whether his form of music is compatible with Islam and whether his work as a musician conflicts with his role as imam, a government-funded post. And it recently sent a group of inspectors to the hamlet to question members of his 40-strong congregation about his activities. “I want to show that you can be a Muslim, listen to rock music and be modern at the same time,” insisted the 42-year-old. The imam made headlines in August when he and his band Firock performed for the first time in public at a local festival in his hometown of Kas in front of a crowd of hundreds of curious onlookers. He says his music is steeped in Sufism or mystical Islam and is primarily geared towards Turkish youth “who are distancing themselves from Islam today”. The probe into Tuzer highlights the ongoing battle in Turkish society between the religious conservatism espoused by the government and the staunchly secular traditions of the modern republic.

Tuzer is active on Facebook and Twitter and a single released by the three-member Firock “Mevlaya Gel” (Come to God) has had over 32,000 hits on YouTube. Tuzer previously angered religious authorities in Turkey in 1997 when as a prayer leader at a mosque in Istanbul he married a foreign tourist, a Christian woman who later converted to Islam. They have an 11-year-old son.

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