Tag Archives: headscarf

Turkish Government Intrudes Into College Policy

The most important right possessed by those who teach in universities is the right to decide policies on a college campus. Five members of the Higher Education Board(YOK) of Turkey issued a statement that blasted the chairman of YOK, Professor Yusuf Ziya Ozcan for over-ruling the Board on the issue of can women wear a headscarf while attending university classes. Ozcan issued a directive to university campuses saying women should be allowed to wear the headscarf despite legal issues concerning whether this was allowed.

The issue is not women wearing the headscarf, the issue is who decides campus policy? In a free university where all ideas are discussed, and in which the faculty make final decisions, the government should not be allowed to decide policy. Today, it is the headscarf, but what about tomorrow?

Headscarf Wars In Denmark

Perhaps, since the sixties when adults became furious at long hair worn by young boys and girls leading even judges to force haircuts for those up for trial has there been such controversy as to what happens on the head of people. Denmark has banned its judges from wearing a headscarf in a courtroom on grounds it is necessary to ensure the accused peace of mind the judge is impartial and will not use an individual’s religion in rendering decisions. Brian Mikkelsen, Minister of Justice, argued: “we’re addressing the rise of religious fundamentalism in the public domain.” So, what is the relation between religious fundamentalism and a judge wearing a headscarf?

The law has been criticized by a host of lawyers and judges who believe it insults every judge by assuming the individual’s religious beliefs would enter into making judicial decisions. The entire issue arose because a single Muslim woman said if she became a judge she would wear the headscarf. Certainly, before making such rash decisions it might be advisable to wait until at least one defendant raises a complaint?

Headscarf Issue Alive In Sweden

The world is suffering from a severe economic crisis, terrorism has devastated the people of Mumbai, Israel and Palestinians still fight one another, but for some reason, the issue of what a girl wears on the top of her head is a dominant issue for some people. During the 1960s, men and women went crazy over a boy who wore his hair long, and now in the first decade of the 21st century, a major concern for some is the headscarf. A Muslim student in a Swedish school was told she could not wear her headscarf because somehow it interfered with her work in school. The student was in a hotel and catering course that entails a period of time working in a hotel. But, the hotel refused to accept the girl unless she removed her headscarf.

The young lady refused to abandon her headscarf and sued the school district. The Swedish Ombundsman against Discrimination(DO) awarded the young lady damages of $7,400 and said she had a right to wear the headscarf. The hotel apologized and the ban on wearing a headscarf has been lifted. Now, if we could resolve other religious issues in such an easy manner….

Turkey”s Female Activists Remain Divided

Turkey’ Zaman newspaper interviewed a cross section of its nation’s women activists on the current state of women rights in Turkey. There is little evidence women are cooperating across religious or political or social lines despite recognition that success for one group may ultimately benefit all Turkish women. Canan Gullu, president of the secular Federation of Turkish Women’s Associations, indicated a problem in cooperation was the desire of Muslim women groups to politicize women’s issues by making wearing of the headscarf an important issue. Turkish women currently can not wear the headscarf while attending a university. According to Mine Ilic, another secular leader, “It can be said that conservative women don’t stay in secular women’s groups for long. Among, the most important reasons for this are differences in opinion ideology.”

However, some women believe Turkish women must cease dividing into religious and secular groups. Liz Amada, of Women for Women’s Human Rights(WWHR) believes within any women group there is a sharp division of opinion regarding many issues and the so called divide may well be exaggerated. Religious women note although they support wearing the headscarf in universities that does not mean they oppose other ideas to enhance the power and prestige of women.

Was The Turkish Headscarf Ruling Legal?

This past spring the Constitutional Court of Turkey ruled a law passed by the legislature which ended the ban on women being able to wear a headscarf was unconstitutional. The decision has unleashed a vigorous debate as to the right of the Court to intervene in social issues of the Turkish society. Supporters of the Court argue ending the ban avoided creating a social conflict within society while opponents argue Courts should only stick to legal issues and avoid getting involved in social problems. The debate about the headscarf has long ceased to be one about law and has become one that walks the thin line between how the rights of women are interpreted.

Supporters of the headscarf argue a woman has a right to wear one and denying religious minded women of being able to wear the headscarf, in effect, bars them from attending college. Opponents fear once the headscarf is accepted at the university level, younger girls will be subject to pressure in secondary schools to wear one. In essence, either way, one is dealing with women rights.

Is there a middle ground which makes clear the headscarf can only be worn at universities, but is not allowed in secondary schools?

Headscarf Issues Must Be Resolved

Professor Elizabeth Ozdalga, a well-known sociologist, urges resolution of the headscarf issue which has created extensive tension and division within Turkish society. The constitutional amendment to deal with the issue and allow women at universities to wear a headscarf was cancelled by the Constitutional Court earlier this year. Professor Ozdalga, believes the headscarf issue must be seen within a wider perspective pertaining to issues of democracy and freedom of expression within her nation. She argues the extent of religiosity in Turkish society is exaggerated which results in a smaller group being able to generate controversy by using the headscarf issue as one which is of critical importance.

Professor Ozdalga is raising an important issue concerning the headscarf. On one hand, believers in democracy should support the right of women to wear whatever they desire. On the other hand, if the headscarf is the symbol of radical fundamentalist Muslims, the issue shifts. The question raised by the professor is whether or not the headscarf is really of the significance to which secularists have come to believe.

Turk Independent Minded Professor Fired

Osman Can is an independent minded professor in Turkey who follows his own path on issues pertaining to the rights of individuals rather than blindly accepting those of either side in debates dealing with individual rights. He learned a few days ago that his presence was not desired at the Cankaya University Law School. Undoubtedly, they did not want a man who supported the rights of Muslim women to wear a headscarf in university. He had recommended to the Constitutional Court it was not unconstitutional to allow women the right to wear a headscarf. Many liberals oppose this right on ground it will spread Islamic ideas in the university but Can believes infringements on individual rights have no place in a university. He also opposed shutting down the Justice and Development Party(AKP) and has taken a stand supporting the rights of conscientious objectors.

Can does not fall into a category but will support fundamentalist Muslims on one issue and their opponents on another. Can opposed law that allow individuals who want more secularism and other cases involving individual rights. The university claimed he was fired because they want professors who attended the college rather than bringing in outsiders.

Headscarf Wars Resume In Turkey

The Constitutional Court of Turkey recently handed down a decision not to close down the Justice and Development Party of the nation due to its alleged attempts to foster religious values in society but warned its leaders not to pursue any policy of forcing religion on secular institutions such as universities. President Gul and Prime Minister Erdogan assured the nation it would respect the views of the Constitutional Court and work more closely with secular political parties. Apparently, the words of yesterday have scant connection to the actions of today. The Supreme Education Board(YOK) submitted a list of rectors to head universities which mainly contains names of those who wish to end the ban on wearing the headscarf at a university. A total of 36 of the 69 candidates signed a declaration supporting lifting the headscarf ban.

There is nothing wrong with appointing an individual to the position of rector of a university who holds views supporting the right to wear a headscarf, but in most cases of these appointments the faculty of universities recommended other people for the position of rector. President Gul and Prime Minister Erdogan are going against faculty wishes in these appointments which can only serve to foster fear and concern among secular believers in Turkey that their wishes are not being respected.

Turkish Universities Furious At Political Interference

Professors at Turkish universities are furious at the decision of President Abdullah Gul of the religious leaning Justice and Development Party(AKP) to ignore recommendations of teh Higher Education Board(YOK) and appoint religious leaning professors to the position of rector of a university. Professor Ural Akbulut, former rector at ODTU, told the Turkish Daily News a university’s recommendation for the post of rector must be respected because college faculty know those on the list and have decided which ones they most highly respect. Professor Kadkri Yamac, former rector of Gazi University in Ankara obtained twice the number of votes as the person who was selected but YOK disregarded the election results and excluded his name from those submitted to Gul.

Business groups like the Turkish Industrialists and Businessmen’s Association urged politicians to stay out of the university administration and allow the faculty to make decisions. Most university professors believe President Gul is taking revenge against them for refusing to support his efforts to end the ban on wearing a headscarf in a university.

Turkish Courts Move Against Freedom Of Press

The ongoing conflict between Turkey’s secular minded judiciary and those supporting the rights of Muslim women took an ominous turn when a public prosecutor filed a lawsuit against a Turkish journalist for the Star on grounds he was inciting “people to hatred an enmity” because of his columns which argue Muslim females have the right to wear a headscarf while attending the university. The Constitutional Court is currently hearing a case raised against the ruling Justice and Development Party(AKP) on grounds it is fostering the Muslim religion by acts such as allowing women to wear the headscarf.

On June 5, 2008, nine of the 11 members of the Constitutional Court declared illegal Parliament’s decision to end the ban on wearing the headscarf. Mustafa Karaaliogu wrote a column denouncing the decision and arguing in favor of the headscarf. He now stands charged with crimes of “provoking people to commit a crime.”

Karaaliglu wrote the following on June 6: “By canceling legislation that is designed to remove a certain violation of rights and shame and ensure that young women can attend university, the Constitutional Court exceeded its jurisdiction and violated the very law that is its raison d’etre. It trampled not only on the law, but also on the headscarf, which is the heritage of a centuries-old faith.”

It does not matter if one agrees or disagrees with the journalist, his comments were valid expression of a viewpoint and in no way incited violence or fostered hate.