ISTANBUL (RNS) Turkey’s religious authorities have given the go-ahead for the country’s controversial “Rockin’ Imam” to keep on rocking.

By day, the 43-year-old imam Ahmet Muhsin Tuzer, pictured Sept. 25, 2013, leads prayers from his mosque in the tiny hamlet of Pinarbasi in southern Turkey. By night the imam fronts a rock band which has raised eyebrows among conservative religious authorities. But a ruling this month says the imam may keep on rocking.

By day, 43-year-old imam Ahmet Muhsin Tuzer, pictured Sept. 25, 2013, leads prayers from his mosque in the tiny hamlet of Pinarbasi in southern Turkey. By night the imam fronts a rock band, which has raised eyebrows among conservative religious authorities. But a ruling this month says the imam may keep on rocking. RNS photo by Jacob Resneck


This image is available for Web and print publication. For questions, contact Sally Morrow.

Ahmet Muhsin Tuzer, a Muslim prayer leader from the coastal town of Kas, raised eyebrows last year after he formed the band FiRock and performed as its frontman.

His case — as far as anyone can tell — is unprecedented. There have not been any — to date — public cases of Turkish imams forming rock bands.

A YouTube video of the group’s first single, Mevlaya Gel (Come to God), received more than 50,000 hits since July.

After a concert in August drew more than a thousand people in Kas, Turkey’s religious authority, which supervises the country’s more than 80,000 state-run mosques, opened an investigation to see if a rocking imam was espousing a brand of counterculture that violates Turkish religious values.

Nine months later, after having reprimanded him for critical statements he’d made about the investigation, Tuzer’s bosses say the show can go on.

The decision comes as the Islamist-rooted government of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan — now in its 11th year of power — continues to impose a conservatve religious agenda.

Erdogan has courted controversy for passing stringent rules on the sale of and advertising of alcohol, counseled women to marry and bear at least three children, likened legal abortion to a massacre and has even called for a ban on mixed-sex accommodations for university students.

“If I make a mistake, they will definitely punish me,” Tuzer said. “But right now it’s OK and there’s no problem.”

43-year-old imam Ahmet Muhsin Tuzer had already courted controversy in the late 1990s when he wed a Christian woman from Romania. Pictured together on Sept. 25, 2013, Tuzer and his wife Mara, say they now practice Sufism, a Mystical branch of Islam, from the rural mosque in Pinarbasi, Turkey that doubles as their home.

Imam Ahmet Muhsin Tuzer had already courted controversy in the late 1990s when he wed a Christian woman from Romania. Pictured together on Sept. 25, 2013, Tuzer and his wife, Mara, say they now practice Sufism, a mystical branch of Islam, from the rural mosque in Pinarbasi, Turkey, that doubles as their home. RNS photo by Jacob Resneck


This image is available for Web and print publication. For questions, contact Sally Morrow.

Tuzer had already garnered attention from his superiors when he wed his wife, Mara, an Orthodox Christian from Romania. She’s since converted to Sufi Islam, and the two have a teenage son.

International attention on the clean-shaven, 43-year-old imam, whose strong singing voice once led the call to prayer in Istanbul’s historic Sultanahmet neighborhood, has been intense. In April, he traveled to New York and performed in Brooklyn as part of a larger ensemble.

Tuzer and his bandmates who form FiRock — a psychedelic mixture of acid rock and Sufi-infused mystical lyrics — have their second major Turkish show planned next month in the nearby town of Finike.

“It will be a very, very big concert. We are expecting at least 20,000 people,” he said. “We have many surprises for the people.”

Tuzer said he plans to return to New York in October for an interfaith concert with Christian and Jewish musicians. He said he’s trying to carve out a new niche: Islamic rock that shows the tolerant side of his faith.

“This decision is very historic,” he said. “It shows we are not radical Islam. This is peaceful Islam because, you know, I love all people.”

YS/MG END RESNECK

2 Comments

  1. Allah Allah Sis Boom Bah

    This is brilliant. Bring on the rocking’ imams!
    I’m so glad they are introducing rock music into Islam because it will destroy the religion from within! This will light the rebellious fire and it will spread.

    Oh sure, at first it makes religion look cool. But in no time at all modern thought has to infect the masses – and with that comes the truth. God is just nonsense. Just look at what rock and roll has done to the Evangelical Christian church over the last few decades. It turned church into the shallow vegetative brain state that it is in today. Islam won’t survive 10 minutes of real thought. This is truly excellent.

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