Tag Archives: headscarf

Turkey Divides Over Headscarf Decision

The Turkish nation is still divided over the issue of should women be allowed to wear a headscarf while attending university classes. The Constitutional Court has ruled wearing a headscarf in universities violates the secular spirit of the Constitution. The ruling Justice and Development Party undoubtedly made a serious mistake by not working harder prior to introrducing legislation ending the ban to ensure secular people in society recognized it was only aimed at one place– the university. There was need for more extensive dialogue and reaching out to secular leaders. Many secular people fear once the headscarf ban ends, Muslim groups will begin exerting pressure on women to wear one in the university and then pressure will be exerted on secondary school girls to wear the headscarf. The issue has become a symbol of religious intolerance.

Esra Altinay Ozbecetek reflected the spirit of those Muslim women who wish to wear a headscarf by saying, “I’m crushed and feel hopeless. I really don’t feel equal to anybody else in this country anymore.” How does a society respect the feelings of those with differing views? We believe the Turkish government has to be more proactive in offering secular Turks their rights will not be abused.

Headscarf War Continues Raging In Turkey

Turkey’s Constitutional Court will announce in the coming days its decision on a case regarding the right of Muslim women to wear a headscarf while attending a university. The opposition Republican People’s Partty has urged the court to rule against such a right on grounds to do so violates Turkey’s secular concept of government. The Constitutional Court has three options regarding the case, it can reject the challenge to the constitutional change which allows wearing the headscarf, it can claim the amendment violates article 2 of the Constitution or it can cite prior court cases which indicate wearing a headscarf is in violation of the Constitution.

Meanwhile, the European Court of Human Rights ruled yesterday that two Muslim women who were teaching at a religious school do not have the right to wear a headscarf while at work on grounds they were working in a state secular institution and had to abide by its rules and regulations.

Turkish Tensions Rise Between Courts And Government

The escalating tensions between Turkey’s courts and the government continued to escalate as both sdies refused to back down in the constitutional confrontation which may well tear the nation apart. Last week, the Supreme Court of Appeals accused the government of attempting to influence the judiciary which immediately elicited an angry response from the government. The Constitutional Court will rule next month if the government led by Prime Minister Erdogan and his Justice and Development Party(AKP) have violated the secular foundations of the country by pushing for laws that impose Muslim ideas such as allowing women to wear the headscarf at universities.

A major problem is creating even worse feelings is that President Gul is a member of the AKP and may well be challenged by the June court decision which could order that leaders of the AKP are barred from serving in any government position. Ahmet Abakay, president of the Contemporary Journalists Association, notes, “as long as the government and its members do not respect the judiciary’s indepdnence, and consders itself above it, tensons wll remain and there will be more battles.” There are reports some members of the Constitutional Court feel they are being stalked by the police.

Some critics point out the contradictory attitude of the government which allowed demonstrations by soccer clubs in city squares but refused it to unions and the resulting conflict left many workers injured or arrested. At some point, calmer heads in the government must recognize there is need to reassure secular Turks it has no plan to impose Muslim Sharia law on the nation.

Judges Back Danish Headscarf Ban

Two interna;tional judges associations have declared their support for the Danish ban against female judges wearing headscarves. They believe judges wearing such attire might produce feelings of prejudice on the part of defendants. The International Association of Judges(IAJ) and the European Association of Judges(EAJ) made clear their support for the ban. Maja Tratnik, of the IAJ, said: “A citizen who enters a courtoom should feel secure standing before a judge who symbolizes laws with the complete neutrality and impartiality that it encompasses. Therefore, all form of attire signaling either religious or politcal beliefs cannot be allowed on a judge.”

Thechairman of the EAJ also agreed judges must come across as neutral. Virgiljus Valancius said the topic would be discussed at a meeting in the future.

Common sense would support the Danish view against wearing a headscarf in a courtroom. It just opens the door for complaints of prejudice against a judge and more litigation.

Turkish Judge Hints At Anti-Government Ruling

Hasim Kilic, chief justice of the eleven member Constitutional Court of Turkey said the outcome of the court’s ruling on whether the Justice and Development Party(AKP) has acted legally will not impact the future of Turkish democracy. He told a newspaper: “Whatever the ruling is, you will see that our democracy, secularism, and rule of law will be strengthened by this process, believe in me.” The Court is currently dealling with a case brought before it by the chief prosecutor which charges the AKP with violating the nation’s constitution because of alledged desires to impose Muslim law, a position which violates the secular constitution.

Turkey has been a model of a society which believes in Muslim law but also adheres to a constitution which places secular values as the foundation of the nation. The AKP has attempted to walk the tight rope of maintaining secular law while making some changes such as allowing females to wear a headscarf in the university. Ironically, the European Union, which wants Turkey to be centered in secular values also does not believe a court of law should be able to close down a political power. It wants the court of public opinion alone to possess such authority.

European Union Official-Try Ombudsman For Turkey

Olli Rehn of the European Union urged Turkey to establish an ombudsman system in order to handle the controversial headscarf issue which has torn apart the nation. He recognized an important issue in Turkey is balancing secular and religious concerns and these might be best resolved by having an ombudsman who deals with indivdual cases of human rights. “What I mean is an ombudsman which will settle citizens’s small-scale complaints without leading to lawsuits or questioning of democratic principles in the country.” He noted Turkey had the most restrictive laws about wearing the headscarf of any European nation and in its application for membership allowing wearing the headscarf would not be a major issue.

Rehn emphasized that Turkey should be focusing on ways to bring together both secular and religious sectors of society in order to handle any outstanding issues without creating a constitutional crisis. Certainly, the issue of wearing or not wearing a headscarf in a university can be resolved in such a manner as to protect individual rights without upsetting the secular basis of Turkish society.

Turkey Struggles With Headscarf And Political Closure

The decision by the Chief Prosecutor to close down the Justice and Development Party(AKP) has resulted in a quiet shift from concern over issues regarding wearning the headscarf to those pertaining to the very fabric of a democratic society. Secular forces in Turkey believe the AKP and its support for allowing women to wear a headscarf in the university reflect a desire to establish a Muslim society in Turkey that would be centered around Sharia law. chief Prosecutor Abdurrahman Yalcinkaya’s decision to request a ruling by the Constitutional Court to close down the AKP came just after parliament voted to end the ban against wearing the headscarf.

Omer Faruk Grgenioglu, chair of the Association of Huma nRights and Solidarity for Oppressed People, termed both closure and refusing to allow women the right to wear the headscarf to be “a violation of human rights and freedoms.” His organization has been working to resolve the headscarf issue so it no longer is of concern to either secularists or those with deep religious values.

One can recognize deep concerns on the part of secularists in Turkey, particularly fears once the headscarf is allowed in universities, it will soon be followed by becoming the norm in high schools. This is a legitimate fear. However, people of good will can work through such issues without going the route of closing down political parties. It is time for a joint commission representing both views to come up with a solution that alleviates fears on the part of all parties.

Should A Judge Be Allowed To Wear A Headscarf?

The world is confronting a devastating food crisis, energy costs keep rising, millions of children throughout the planet are working or lack access to a school, but the people of Denmark have undoubtedly identified a major concern facing humanity– the headscarf! A large majority of Danish people indicated they oppose allowing a female Danish judge to wear a headscarf. The Danish govlernment is taking action to halt a recent decision by the Court Administration which said it was OK for a female judge to have her head covered with a headscarf. Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen made known his strong oppositon to the ruling. Justice Minister Lene Esperson said: “Citizens are very conscious that a court of law shuld be impartial. The people won’t accept that political conviction or religion is allowed to reign over a place dedicated to strict, neutral decision making.”

Poll results indicated among those aged 18-25 nearly 75% said it made no difference to them what was on the head of a judge while only 16% of those over 65 had similar feelings.

There is an assumption that wearing a headscarf is a political statement which indicates strong bias on the part of a Muslim female judge. Unless, the case involved wearing a headscarf, what exactly is the poltical statement made by wearing a headscarf? One can assume many Danish judges wear a cross or a star under their shirt or blouse. Does the cross or star reflect a bias that would play out against a defendant?

It is time for European society to cease engaging in much ado about nothing and cease creating these storms in a teacup issues.

P.S. Out of curiosity, exactly how many Danish judges are female Muslims who wear a headscarf? Just asking.

Turkey Faces Internal And External Issues

The Turkish government is endeavoring to deal with the problem of Kurdish rebels who are in Kurdistan without antagnizing the government of Iraq or that of the United States. At the same time, the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) is being challenged internally by both nationalist and moderate groups. Moderates fear the government of President Gul and Prime Minister Erdogan is trying to end the secular tradition of the nation by emphasizing Muslim attitudes such as ending the ban on headscarfs in universities. Moderates regard it as the opening salvo in a campaign to transform the nation into a fundamentalist center. Nationalists are angry at failure to continue the campaign in Kurdistan and blame American interference with ending the Turkish strike into northern Iraq.

The situation has been further complicated by a public prosecutor who has brought charges the AKP has become the center of anti-secular activities and thus is in violation of the Turkish constitution. Hasim Kilic, the Constitutional Court President is urging everyone to step back for a moment and consider what is best for the nation. He emphasized, “as long as the institutions are functioning in Turkey, no one should be worried.”

There is no question the Erdogan government is determined to push through an end to the ban on wearing the headscarf in universities. Hopefully, all sides can find a compromise that assures secularists their rights will not be compromised while allowing some leewayto Muslim women in universities.

Turkish Headscarf Fight Continues

Even as President Gul of Turkey signed a change in the nation’s Constitution that will allow students at universities to enjoy freedom to wear clothes — a change designed to end the ban against women wearing the headscarf– university leaders indicated their resolve to fight against the change. According to Erdogan Tezic, former head of the Higher Education Board, “No judicial change took effect….the ban on religious(head-gear) will continue.” Although the newly changed Article 10 gives freedom to dress at universities, Article 17 is still in effect and that part of the Constitution says one can dress as one desires, provided that dress does not violate existing law. The existing law still bans wearing the headscarf.

For those in other nations, the entire matter appears somewhat exaggerated in importance although secularists in Turkey fear the change is merely an opening step to force females in lower grades of school to adopt the headscarf. That is a definite real concern which must be addressed. How can a reasonable policy be created which protects both secular and religious rights is the question.