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There Once Was A Turkish ... British Magazine Invites Erdogan-Mocking Limericks

In Germany, obscene mockery of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan could potentially land you in court — as comedian Jan Boehmermann discovered last week.

In the U.K., obscene mockery of Erdogan could land you £1000.

British journalist Douglas Murray was horrified by the recent news that German Chancellor Angela Merkel will be allowing a criminal investigation of comedian Jan Boehmermann, who read an obscene, satirical poem mocking Erdogan on German TV.

As the Two-Way reported last week, the poem included references to Erdogan watching child porn and committing bestiality, as well as kicking Kurds and smacking Christians. That means he might have violated a German law against insults to foreign heads of state — Boehmermann's point was to highlight German limits on free speech.

Turkey demanded that the comedian actually be prosecuted under the obscure law he was criticizing. And Merkel agreed, while also saying she'd work on rewriting the law in question.

None of this sat well with Murray.

"I'm a free-born British man, and we don't live under the blasphemy laws of such despots," Murray wrote in the conservative British magazine The Spectator. "So in honour of this fact I have spent the weekend writing rude limericks about Mr Erdogan.

"And I would hereby like to invite all readers to join me in a grand Erdogan limerick competition."

Technically speaking, Murray is willing to consider any rude poetry — but he recommends the limerick, "because almost everything insulting that is worth saying can usually be included within the five lines of that beautiful and delicate form."

Two elements are non-negotiable: The poem must be insulting, and it also must be obscenely filthy.

Murray's own poem certainly fits the bill. Here at the Two-Way, our Standards and Practices editor would probably object if we excerpted much more than

Recep Erdogan is the Turk'll
Never tire of ...

For the rest, you'll have to head over to The Spectator. And, do I seriously need to say this? He's not kidding about being coarse.

Originally, there was no compensation offered for the best rude and crude doggerel. "I have not been able to find a sponsor for the competition. So there aren't any prizes — except perhaps for our continuing freedom," Murray wrote. "If there is anyone out there who would seriously prefer a box of Ferrero Rocher, Turkish Delight or whatever then I don't want them to enter this competition anyway."

But a benefactor has since stepped up and offered a £1000 purse ($1,439) to the victor.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Corrected: April 20, 2016 at 12:00 AM EDT
A previous version of this post referred to Recep Tayyip Erdogan as prime minister. He is a former prime minister who is now Turkey's president.
Camila Flamiano Domonoske covers cars, energy and the future of mobility for NPR's Business Desk.