Turkish Headscarf Issue Continues Dividing Nation

The proposal by a commission which is revising Turkey’s constitution to insert a one sentence statement that would allow women to wear a headscarf while attending universities continues to arouse strong passions. The opposition Nationalist Movement Party offered a compromise that might avoid tearing the nation apart over the one sentence statement. Under its proposal, the fourth clause of Article 10 of the Constitution would be amended to read: “the state organs and the administration units must abide by the equality before the law principle in introducing and utlizing public services.” The MHP argues this could then be interpreted to allow women to wear a headscarf while attending a university.

Prime Minister Erdogan of the Justice and Development Party, which has a strong Muslim orientation, is under pressure from his grass roots supporters to end the ban on headscarves. He indicated willingness to go along with any solution that ended the ban regardless of how it was worded. However, secular opposition groups insisted the ban must be kept in order to ensure Turkey does not fall under rule of an Islamic group that would impose its version of the Muslim religion upon the entire nation. The outside world may well be confused about the intense emotions aroused by the headscarf issue. For secular Turks it is a bedrock issue because they fear pressure being exerted on secular Muslim women to wear a headscarf. It appears, in one way or another, there will be an end to the ban. The issue illustrates the genius of those who wrote the American Constitution. They avoided getting into too many specifics. Does the issue of the headscarf belong in the Constitution is a question Turks may well wonder about.

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