Turkish Lawyer Detained After Criticizing Sharia Law on Social Media

Istanbul, Turkey – A Turkish lawyer has been detained by authorities for making derogatory comments about Sharia, the religious law associated with Islamic tradition, on a social media platform. According to the Cumhuriyet daily, an investigation was launched into the lawyer, Feyza Altun, after she used offensive language in response to a comment on one of her posts.

Altun had shared a Persian poem on the platform, which prompted a user to make a comment linking her name to a “Sharia attack.” In response, Altun posted “F*** Sharia,” which quickly drew attention and criticism on social media. Users initiated a campaign with the hashtag “Feyza Altun should be arrested” to address her controversial statement.

The Beykoz Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office took action based on Article 216 of the Turkish Penal Code, which states that individuals who openly incite enmity or hatred towards another group based on social class, race, religion, or sectarian differences can face imprisonment for one to three years. The investigation into Altun stems from allegations that her comment violated this provision.

Altun later deleted the post but expressed her stance on the matter. She asserted that she had never written anything offensive about any belief and emphasized that religious beliefs are personal choices that do not concern her. Furthermore, she criticized the concept of Sharia, equating it with a Taliban-like mentality that oppresses women. Altun argued that advocating for Sharia poses a threat to the constitutional order and constitutes a crime.

Speaking to Cumhuriyet, Altun clarified her understanding of Sharia as a “political regime,” distancing it from religious connotations. As a result, she reiterated her opposition to Sharia and stood by her original statement.

Article 216 of the Turkish Penal Code has been frequently invoked in recent years, leading to legal actions against numerous individuals. However, concerns have been raised that this provision is primarily employed to silence dissent and restrict freedom of expression.

The results of a study conducted by the Economic Policy Research Foundation of Turkey reveal that a majority of the Turkish population favors a secular and democratic government. Over the years, the desire to live in a secular state has increased, with 75 percent of participants expressing this preference in 2016. By 2020, the figure had risen to 81 percent. Furthermore, a significant proportion of the population is satisfied with living in a democratic country. The study also highlights a decline in support for a legal system based on Sharia law, with only 17 percent favoring it in 2020 compared to 22 percent in 2016.

The case involving Feyza Altun reflects the ongoing tensions in Turkey regarding religious and secular values. The controversy surrounding her comments underscores the importance of freedom of expression and the challenges faced by those who express dissenting views. As the investigation progresses, it remains to be seen how this case will contribute to the broader debate surrounding the role of Sharia in Turkish society.