Tag Archives: headscarf

Is Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan Defender Secularism?

Deniz Baykai of the Turkish Republican People’s Party, rebuked Prime Minister Erdogan for claiming to be a defender of the principles of secularism. He blasted Erdogan’ policy of ending the ban on wearing a headscarf at universities, and warned, “the Islamic headscarf will spread to high schools and state institutions if it is let free in universities.” A main issue of opponents is fear that religious extremists will force younger children to wear the headscarf since it would be more difficult for a young girl to resist peer pressure.

The ruling Justice and Development Party and the opposition Nationalist Movement Party hve agreed to a constitutional change that would guaratee the right to wear whatever clothes a person desires while attending a university. Bakyai is hoping the courts will slap down the change.

Tales Of Turkish Muslim Women And Headscarfs

A common belief of Turkish political leaders of the Justice and Development Party(AKP) is that Turkish women make the decision to wear a headscarf on their own because they believe it is somehow connected to being modest and behaving like a good Muslim woman. The Turkish Daily News recently provided stories behind how wives of prominent members of the AKP decided to wear a headscarf.

Prime Minister Erdogan’s wife was a romantic teenager who enjoyed a typical teenage girl’s life until her brother brought the news. “I even thought of committing suicide when my brother told me that I should wear a headscarf. How could I be covered? We had no acquaintances in our circle(who wore headscarfs).” After she married she became a housewife and wore the headscarf.

Hayrunnisa Gul, wife of the president of Turkey. She was engaged at 14 and married at 15. The day she married was the first day she wore a headscarf.

Zeyne Babacan, wife of the foreign minister. She was a student at the university when she got into an arranged marriage. After being married, she gave up the university, became a housewife and put on the headscarf.

Somehow, these stories indicate evidence of arranged marriages and women giving up careers in order to please husbands and only after marriage finally deciding to wear the headscarf. This is hardly evidence of a strong desire on the part of Turkish women to wear the headscarf. It merely reflects that husbands make decisions and wives obey them.

Headscarf Has No Connection With Religion

Noted Turkish archeologist, Muazzez Ilmiye Cig argues the eadscarf controversy that is tearing religious and secular Turkey to pieces essentially is based on erroneous beliefs about the Muslim religion. For some, wearing the headscarf is an individual expression of religious faith while to others it is an attack on the secular nature of Turkish society. The Turkish parliament this week voted overwhelmingly to remove the ban against women wearing a headscarf at the univeristy.

Ms. Cig’s research reveals the initial idea of wearing a veil stems from the Sumerians and a priestess wore it while having a sexual encounter with a male. She argues the issue of the headscarf is a political one, not religious. Ataturk introduced western schools which competed with the Koranic and thus created tension. He conceived secularism as a means of having separation of church and state, and never regarded it as being anti-religion. “In other words, the young women are welcome to wear the headscarf, but no on government premises. It so happens that the headscarf is a rrligious ysmbol.butsides, it is one that incorrectly invokes religon.”

Ms. Cig’s arguement is that the Koran contains many ambiguous ideas and the current emphasis on wearing a headscarf is not actually a requirement of the Koran but stems from some Muslims who interpret it to mean that.

Turkish Women Demonstrate Against Headscarf

More then 100,000 demonstrators flocked to Anitkabir to express their opposition to the government’s headscarf proposal which is tearing apart the Turkish nation. The meeting was led by several women’s organizations which intend to fight new efforts by the Justice and Development Party and the Nationalist Movement Party which have agreed on new wording to the constitution which allows women to wear a headscarf while attending university classes. The demonstration came a few days after a large number of academic and university leaders claimed the change would result in extreme conflict and disorder in universities. The Republic Women’s assocation and the Association in Support of Contemporary Life flocked to the mausoleum of the Republic’s founder, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk in a symbolic demonstration that drew upon the Ataturk policy of secularism.

There were demonstrations against the headscarf in many areas of Turkey where speakers argued the Erdogan government is damaging the secular reforms which marked the birth of the current Turkish government. Prime Minister Erdogan complained protestors were attempting to divide the nation.

There must be a compromise solution which could satisfy the aspirations of both groups. One fear undoubtedly is that once the headscarf is in place at the universities, its use will spread to lower grades. Erdogan should find a solution which avoids such a process. That might dampen anger and opposition.

Battle Goes On About Headscarf Ban In Turkey

Turkey’s top generals signaled the military is opposed to lifting the ban on women wearing a headscarf in university settings. Chief of General Staff General Yasar Buyukant told reporters that “All segments of Turkish society know what the military thinks about the headscarf issue. To say anything would be nothing more than stating the obvious. This is why I do not want to say anything.” The military regards itself as the protector of the secular state that has endured for most of the past 100 years. General Buyukant reaffirmed he would not meet with Iraqi President Jalal Talabani when he visits Turkey. The Turkish military is not satisfied with efforts by Iraq to take effective action against Kurdish rebels who operate on Iraqi soil.

The ever present danger in Turkey is potential military action if the current religious Muslim Justice and Development leaders continue efforts to bring a greater religious sense to government. The military opossed the election of Gul as president because they regarded him as too religious minded. It is still unclear if the push for religion grows stronger how the militay will respond. In the past it has overthrown governments it regarded as threatening the secular foundation of Turkey.

Headscarf War Rages In Turkish Universities

The first official objection to allowing the use of the headscarf in state universities came from the Inonu University Senate, which forsees tension and conflict between students with different religious and political beliefs. University Rector, Fatih Himioglu, warned, “Permitting the headscarf will spark a regime crisis in Turkey. It will propgte down quickly to high schools and elementary schools.” The university Senate stated its objections: “Constitutional Court Decisions are binding on the legislative just like any other institution, and no amendment can run counter to the Constitution’s unalterable clauses.” Article 4 of the Constitutin forbidss changing or proposing a change in the first three articles. Article 2 states that Turkey is a secular republic. It is clear that the drive to open the path for the use of the headscarf in universities is meant as a tentative m oe toward changing the nature of th regime, read the statement.

It is clear university faculty regards the headscarf as an opening wedge to throttle free speech and behavior in higher education institutions. There is also fear once the headscarf is allowed in universities, the idea will spread to high school and the elementary grades where it is much more difficult for girls to resist demands to wear one. There is need for the Justice and Development Party to clarify its long term goals regarding use of the headscarf in education. Is it an opening wedge?

Most Swedes Oppose Muslim Headscarves

Recent polls indicate nearly half of Swedes oppose Muslim women wearing headscarves. In 2005, 43% of Swedes rejected the idea of Muslim women being allowed to wear headscarves in public places like schools or government buildings, today, that figure is 49.8% of respondents. The questionnaire used the word “sloja” which literally means “veil” but apparently most Swedes use the word in referring to any form of head covering. Ironically, only 5% indicated they had negative views toward foreigners although about one-third believed they came to take advantage of Sweden’s social welfare opportunities.There apparently is something about Muslim women wearing head coverings which upsets many people in western nations. Why the passion about this relatively unimportant aspect of attire?

Turkish Higher Education Leaders Seek Compromise

The Chair of Turkey’s Higher Education Board (YOK), Erdogan Tezic, met with President Gul in an effort to have proposed changes in the nation’s constitution include the ideas of many divergent voices. Tezic had quarreled with Prime Minister Erdogan about proposed changes which would end the ban on women wearing a headscarf and was told to mind his own business. Tezic urged President Gul to slow down the process and reach out to other voices in order to lessen the acrimonious atmosphere which is developing from bits and pieces of changes being disseminated to the public.Turkish higher education leaders are approaching a rather volatile situation in the correct calm manner. A constitution should not be changed by a single party, particularly one that only received 47% of the vote. There is need to make changes reflect consensus views if they are to avoid dividing the Turkish population.