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Turkish lawyer detained over Sharia comments as Islamist-secularist debate flares

In the run-up to nationwide municipal elections, the arrest of the lawyer for her comments has provoked a fresh maelstrom over the role of religion in public life.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan addresses a meeting of provincial election officials at the headquarters of his ruling Justice and Development Party in front of giant portraits of himself and Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the founder of modern Turkey, Ankara, Jan. 29, 2019.

The detention of a Turkish lawyer on Monday after she made derogatory comments about Sharia on the social media platform X has further fueled debate over the role of Islam in public life, which the government’s secular critics say is growing stronger by the day.

Feyza Altun provoked an uproar when she shared a Persian poem. When one user called it “an attack on Sharia,” the 37-year-old feminist responded “F*** Sharia.”

A tidal wave of fury and calls for Altun's arrest ensued. Prosecutors took heed, and Altun was detained on charges of openly inciting public enmity or hatred toward another group based on social class, race, religion or sectarian differences. The offense carries a sentence of imprisonment from one to three years under article 216 of the Turkish penal code.

Altun deleted the post but remained defiant, saying that Sharia was a “political regime” akin to Taliban rule in Afghanistan, suffocating women and targeting secularism and the constitutional order. She was freed on Tuesday under judicial control measures that include an international travel ban and registering with the police twice a week to prove she has not fled.

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