This reporter has just visited the battle front at Bagozici University where combatants eye one another with hats and head coverings in hand prepared to launch a derby or shawl into the direction of opponents. The university faculty has made clear it will not allow women to enter their sacred classes wearing any hair covering like the chador and even those who try to circumvent rules and regulations by wearing hats are considered to be criminals out to disrupt law and order in the university. School administrators struck a blow for freedom by denying women the right to attend classes wearing a headscarf since it is well known that such head coverings essentially cover up religious strategies to end freedom of speech in universities.
Turkey’s Constitutional Court has ruled that wearing the headscarf violates the nation’s constitution. This writer is not Turkish and is Jewish but quite aware of the historic background surrounding the ban on religious symbols in Turkish education institutions. However, we live in the 21st century at a time of vast economic dislocation and ongoing battles to create a peaceful Middle East. Perhaps, it is time to put aside the famous headscarf issue and just let one’s hair let out. It is doubtful if free speech will end in Turkish universities if some of the speakers are wearing a headscarf. In fact, allowing them to wear the headscarf reinforces the right of all Turkish people to adhere to their own religious and cultural beliefs. Who knows, maybe the Armenians can finally get the rest of the nation to acknowledge what happened to their ancestors and maybe Kurds can finally get freedom of speech.
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.
An historic shift has already begun with over a 120,000 Chinese students this past year heading for education in European universities rather than take the more familiar route to the United States. The Patriot Act, and other restrictions caused by America’s fear of terrorism, have made the United States a less desirable destination for young Chinese students seeking higher education. The European Union launched a “Erasmus Mundes” program in 2004 which will have granted $327 million in grants to foreign students by 2009 in order to get them to attend EU institutions. Jan Figel, EU commissioner of Education notes: “When people speak of education,especially higher education, they often think of the US. But actually, universities in the EU are overall, the most attractive because they have a diversity of cultures and teaching methods.” The European Union this week will institute a “fast track” program enabling highly educated immigrants to quickly obtain a “blue card” allowing them to work in the European Union and bring their families. Any student who obtains a B.A. from a EU University will immediately be eligible for a blue card which guarantees all rights such as medical insurance as those held by EU nationals.
Lost in the fears caused by the Patriot Act and the Bush fear program about foreigners is a significant shift in world affairs. America increasingly is becoming more difficult to enter and a less desirable place for highly educated people. The United States for half a century was able to attract and keep hundreds of thousands of skilled workers, but this advantage is slipping away. This is another legacy of the Bush program to create fear in America, but, unfortunately, the fear program is keeping out skilled individuals needed by modern economies.
Posted in China, Education, Europe, Multicultural, Politics, United States, US Foreign Policy, World News
Tagged EU, Higher Education, immigrants, skilled workers, universities