Islamist Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has begun to threaten producers of a popular Turkish television series about the Ottoman Empire.
Likewise, the secular opposition CHP Republican People's Party is using the program as a vehicle to needle the prime minister, head of the ruling Islamist AK party.
The popular soap opera, which began in January 2011, tops viewer charts each week, is called “Magnificent Century.” Set in the 16th century reign of Suleiman the Magnificent over the Ottoman Empire spread across three continents, the program is rife with steamy palace intrigue and power struggles.
It has attracted an audience of up to 150 million viewers in Turkey, as well as parts of the Balkans and elsewhere in the Middle East.
But Erdogan has accused the program of historical inaccuracies, saying Suleiman was a proud conquerer, and never the harem-lover portrayed in the show. Speaking at the opening of an airport Sunday in western Turkey, the prime minister said Turks “know our fathers and ancestors through 'Magnificent Century' but we don't know such a Suleiman. He spent 30 years on horseback, not in the palace, not what you see in that series.”
The RTUK broadcasting authority has received calls from observant Muslims in the country to ban the series, usually after the harem scenes.
Erdogan told reporters the director of the series and the owner of the channel on which it is broadcast have both been warned. He added that he expects the judiciary to act, but offered no details.
The CHP, however, accused the prime minister of being “jealous” of the popularity of the program, and warned of Erdogan's increasing authoritarianism.
“He thinks there's no need for another sultan when he's in power,” taunted CHP deputy chairman Muharrem Ince.
Internationally-renowned jazz and classical Turkish pianist Fazil Say is being tried in an Istanbul court on charges of incitement in a case involving insults to Islam that began October 18. If convicted, the self-proclaimed atheist faces a sentence of up to 18 months in prison for slandering Islam and religious values through the Twitter social networking website.