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Pop Star Arrested After Making Joke in Middle East

A Turkish singer who made a joke about the nation’s Islamic religious schools has been tossed in jail over her remark. Gülşen, a pop singer, was jailed on Thursday over a quip made in April while poking fun at a member of her band,  according to the New York Post. “He studied at an Imam Hatip [school] previously. That’s where his perversion comes from,” Gülşen said in April in a video which began circulating recently. The jab comes in a nation torn between long-standing secular ways and the pro-Islamic rule of President Tayyip Erdogan, who went to an Imam Hatip school. The schools were created to train Muslim young men to be preachers and imams. According to Reuters, a State Department spokesman said the department has concerns about Turkey’s restrictions on free expression.

Istanbul protesters came out to support Gülşen on Saturday, according to Reuters.

“Hundreds of women would be alive today if men who assaulted other women were captured as fast as Gülşen was,” organizers said in comments broadcast via a loudspeaker.

Her arrest was framed as injustice against “women who don’t fit the mold” or are not “the type of woman the government wants,” they said.

Gülşen told authorities in her court hearing Thursday that she had “endless respect for the values and sensitivities of my country,” the state-run Anadolu Agency reported, according to Billboard. Kemal Kilicdaroglu, leader of Turkey’s main opposition party, called for her to be released from custody. “Don’t betray the law and justice; release the artist now!” he wrote on Twitter. A spokesman for Erdogan’s Justice and Development party said, however, that “inciting hatred is not an art form.” “Targeting a segment of society with the allegation of ‘perversion’ and trying to polarize Turkey is a hate crime and a disgrace to humanity,” spokesman Omer Celik said. Sabah, a pro-government newspaper, noted Gülşen had previously been criticized for “actions she displayed on stage, extremely low cut dresses and holding up an LGBT flag,” the Post reported. Justice Minister Bekir Bozdag condemned her “primitive” remarks and “antiquated mentality.” “Inciting one part of society towards another using begrudging, hateful and discriminating language under the guise of being an artist is the biggest disrespect to art,” he wrote. Before her detention, Gülşen, whose full name is Gülşen Colakoglu and has been called a Turkish Madonna, said that although she was “defending freedom of expression” with her “joke between colleagues” she apologized “to everyone who was offended,” according to the BBC. Turkish reactions were mixed. “I’m also a [graduate] of a religious high school,” conservative opposition journalist Nihal Bengisu Karaca said. “I was also hurt by Gülşen’s insult. I showed my reaction by writing an article … But why is Gülşen being arrested? What’s the aim here?” Pro-government newspaper Yeni Safak ran a story with the headline: “The clown crossed the line.” This article appeared originally on The Western Journal.

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