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Turkish imam given go ahead to make rock 'n' roll

AFP, Wednesday 11 Jun 2014
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A Turkish imam has been allowed to rock on after the country's powerful religious authorities gave him the green light to continue playing in his band after a nine-month investigation.

Ahmet Muhsin Tuzer, a Muslim religious leader from a tiny hamlet on Turkey's Mediterranean coast was investigated by the Diyanet, the state body in charge of the country's mosques.

They had to decide whether his brand of music was compatible with Islam or his playing created a conflict with his role as an imam, which is a government-funded post.

In the end, they decided to let him continue as a member of Firock, which blends rock with mystical Sufi music, and only reprimanded him for his negative remarks about the investigation.

"I am very happy that the Diyanet has shown to the whole world that our religion is indeed a tolerant one, not the one that only bans beautiful things," Tuzer told AFP by phone from Pinarkoy, a tiny community near the Mediterranean beach resort of Kas.
The 43-year-old imam made headlines in August last year when he and Firock performed for the first time in public at a local festival in his home town to hundreds of curious onlookers.
He is gearing up for his next concert in the Fenike town of Antalya on June 22, during which "the authorities will keep a close eye on me".
"Before, I wasn't able to act like myself because of pressures. But this time, you will see a different imam, both in terms of looks and the repertoire," he said, saying at least 50,000 people are expected to attend the free concert.
"I'll be a real rock star!" he exclaimed.
The Islamic-rooted government of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, in power for 11 years, has long been under fire for what critics say are creeping efforts to force Islamic values on the predominantly Muslim but staunchly secular country.
Erdogan stoked controversy over calls for a ban on mixed-sex accommodation for university students and has angered secularists with a crackdown on alcohol sales and advertising.

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