Former Turkish imam dismissed for singing rock 'n' roll applies to ECHR

Ahmet Muhsin Tüzer, a former imam who was dismissed by Diyanet in 2018 for singing in a rock band, filed an application with the ECHR in an attempt to return to his previous profession.

Mahmut Çınar / DUVAR

Ahmet Muhsin Tüzer, a former imam who was dismissed in 2018 for singing in a rock band in his spare time, took his case to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) last week.

Tüzer hit the Turkish media headlines in 2015 for his other life as a rock musician. Afterwards, Turkey's Religious Affairs Directorate (Diyanet) launched an investigation into him, which eventually led to his dismissal from the profession.

Although Tüzer took his case to the local courts, no outcome came out of them. Finally, he applied to the Turkish Constitutional Court, but his application was turned down by the top court, which said that more than 30 days had passed after the exhaustion of ordinary remedies. And now, Tüzer is hoping that he can find justice at the ECHR.

Tüzer has been working as a civil servant at another public institution in the western province of Eskişehir since his dismissal from Diyanet. “They fired me from Diyanet, but my right as a civil servant still stands,” Tüzer told Gazete Duvar in an interview.

He said that several imams have been dismissed from Diyanet over arbitrary decisions. “For example, one of our colleagues has been dismissed from duty for joining the opening ceremony of an event organized by the [opposition] İYİ Party,” he said.

He said he had information that a couple of senior Diyanet officials had previously vowed to have him dismissed from the profession. “I have been informed that these people said they 'would strive to the end to have me dismissed from Diyanet' and 'would even go up to the-then prime minister to talk,'” Tüzer said.

Tüzer said that Diyanet officials have complained about him to the-then Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan several times. He said that he had previously met Erdoğan at a concert in the United States and Erdoğan “had not presented any negative attitude” towards him.

“There are religious cults that have found their ways into various institutions of the state; they exist also in Diyanet and I know that they are uncomfortable with my existence,” he said.

Tüzer said that he wants to be an imam again but that he will not give up on life as a rock musician. “My aim is to go back to being an imam because I would like to serve my religion. Previously, I was so much in media as the 'rocker imam.' This was in fact a service. I want to reach up to the youth, touch their hearts and communicate with them,” he said.

He said that if he had held concerts abroad, this would have changed the perception of Turkey and Islam “in a positive way.” “They would have then said, 'It turns out music is not haram [sinful] in Islam,” he said.

Tüzer said that he will soon release a new song in the style of “hard rock.” “I will come up with such a song that they will say, 'Now he has turned into a full rocker imam,'” he said.

(English version by Didem Atakan)