ISTANBUL (Reuters) - Turkey’s radio and television watchdog has suspended a TV program hosted by a Muslim televangelist that blended theological discussion and dancing, saying it violated gender equality and women’s rights.
Adnan Oktar hosts talk show programs on his television channel, A9, where he has discussed Islamic values and sometimes danced with young women he calls “kittens” and sang with young men, his “lions”.
The punishment was imposed after Ali Erbas, the head of Turkey’s Directorate of Religious Affairs, criticized the 62-year-old Oktar’s broadcasts last week for mixing religious and profane elements.
Erbas said it was inappropriate to have religious references and belly dancing in the same program, according to Hurriyet newspaper, and the watchdog said it had received 6,000 complaints against Oktar’s channel so far this year.
Oktar said he respected the watchdog’s decision and is complying with the regulator, but that the criticism of his programs is unjustified.
Religion and entertainment are not incompatible, he told Reuters at a studio for channel in Istanbul.
“One can remember God while taking a shower, at weddings, or at engagements parties. I don’t find it right to say that the Koran, religion and God should not be named in these kinds of events,” he said.
The media watchdog ordered that television broadcasts of the talk show be suspended for five episodes, saying it was insulting to women and promoted repression and abuse.
It also imposed a fine equal to five percent of the channel’s monthly advertising income because it said the channel was encouraging the audience to switch to its web stream, which the watchdog does not currently have the authority to monitor.
A draft law presented to parliament on Thursday would expand the watchdog’s powers to include overseeing internet broadcasts, which would allow it to halt content streamed online.
Oktar wrote the Atlas of Creation in 2006, which argues Darwin’s theory of evolution is at the root of global terrorism, with his pen-name Harun Yahya. He has authored more than 300 books which were translated into 73 languages according to his channel’s website.
Writing by Ezgi Erkoyun; Editing by Dominic Evans/Mark Heinrich