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A British DJ has been sentenced to a year in jail by a Tunisian court after he played a dance remix of the Muslim call to prayer.
Berlin-based DJ Dax J, whose real name is Dax Heddon, played the song in a Tunisian nightclub last week during the Orbit Festival in Tunisia’s northeastern town of Nabeul.
Heddon has been charged with offending public morality and public indecency, but was no longer in the country to appear before the court, and so is unlikely to actually serve his prison term. He has allegedly received several death threats since the incident and has closed all his social media accounts.
The club was shut down after footage of Heddon’s set was shared on social media and caused national outrage. In the video, revelers are seen dancing to a track containing the call for prayer, which is issued from mosques five times a day.
The court dismissed charges against the nightclub owner and the event’s organizer, but the prosecution has since appealed arguing both should have audited the DJ’s set beforehand.
“We will not allow attacks against religious feelings and the sacred,” local governor Mnaouer Ouertani told AFP news agency after the club was closed.
Tunisia’s Religious Affairs Ministry said in a statement that “mocking the opinions and religious principles of Tunisians is absolutely unacceptable.”
Heddon has since issued an apology and the organizers of Orbit Festival have insisted that the DJ “did not realize it might offend an audience from a Muslim country like ours.” They too apologized in the event’s Facebook post, but added that they did not accept responsibility for the incident.
There is no “blasphemy law” in Tunisia, but several other penal codes have been used to curtail debate over religious matters in recent years. The nation’s penal code does, however, criminalize speech that could “cause harm to the public order or public morals.”