“Don’t point with your finger. God is everywhere, and with your finger you could be poking Him in His butt.”
This dialogue from the Turkish version of the French television comedy Ah Biz Kadınlar (“Ah We Women”) just garnered its television station a fine from the Turkish state– not for its reference to an unsavory body part in a religious context, but for the use of the Turkish word for “God” rather than “Allah.”
Turkish newspaper Cumhuriyet cites the exact quotation from the program, which is spoken to a child that is rudely pointing at a woman on the street. While meant to be a cute father-child moment in the original French series, the Turkish-dubbed version raised the ire of the nation’s media watchdog group, the Supreme Board of Radio and Television (RTÜK), for translating the French word “Dieu” as the Turkish word “Tanri,” instead of the Arabic word “Allah.”
Hurriyet Daily News, an English-language Turkish outlet, reports the station was “fined” for airing the dialogue, though Cumhuriyet describes the punishment as a “formal warning” (a warning and a fine need not be mutually exclusively, and the “warning” likely means that, fine or not, the program will be allowed to continue broadcasting after this objectionable dialogue aired). The statement from RTÜK, translated by Hurriyet, is a harsh one accusing the program of insulting “the national and sentimental values of society.”
Almost the whole of society in Turkey is Muslim. In Muslim societies, Allah is one and only. But it is seen that ‘God’ is used, rather than ‘Allah,’ in the saying of grace at military facilities and in broadcastings by some media organs in Turkey. Even if it is not a local production, using such remarks [in broadcasts] in Turkey during the daytime, when children could be watching, would obviously negatively affect children’s perception of Allah.
The statement is particularly strange given that, since the program originated in the mostly-Christian nation of France, it is not likely that the French character in the broadcast was originally Muslim.
Observers of Turkish politics have criticized President Recep Tayyip Erdogan for presiding over an era of increasingly pervasive media censorship in almost every medium in Turkey. In 2014, protests erupted in Istanbul and across the nation as Erdogan attempted to censor dissent against his party and ban Twitter from use. Turkish courts prevented the ban, and Erdogan finally joined Twitter this week, after multiple failed attempted at blocking it in the country.
Erdogan’s government has also taken police action to prevent dissent from spreading, including the arrest of a former Miss Turkey for sharing a poem mocking Erdogan on social media and a raid on the newspaper Cumhuriyet itself, for partnering with the satirical secular French magazine Charlie Hebdo to release a special Turkish edition in the aftermath of the jihadist attack that took the lives of most of Charlie Hebdo’s senior staff.