Friday, May 17, 2013

Can Turkey Be Secular and Allow Head Coverings?

For those who follow these kinds of things in the news [click to view articles I've done with the label "Turkey"], you'll have heard about how things are better for women who want to wear a head covering than they were under the last secular leader of the country of Turkey. Wanting to join the European Union and appear as secular as possible, head scarves were banned in public places in Turkey, such as universities and court rooms, leaving many women scratching their heads about how truly open minded the country was. A friend of mine whose husband has visited Turkey on business has reported how friendly and helpful a country he encountered, and that if their Muslim family ever moved anywhere, it might be Turkey. When I mentioned what I'd heard so long about the head scarf ban, she assured me that things are very different there now, and head covered women are not shunned from the public as they once were. It is true that things have changed, but as all changes are, they come slowly.


headscarved lawyer Zübeyde Kamalak, Timeturk.com
"Judge obeys State Council's "headscarf" decision", in the World Bulletin, is an article sharing how at least one judge had very recently postponed a trial because a lawyer was wearing a headscarf, "saying that lawyers cannot attend hearings with their headscarves on while actively practicing law, which he said is a public service." This article concludes with this summary on the state of things in Turkey: "The headscarf ban in universities was eased after the Higher Education Board (YÖK) sent a circular to universities in 2010 asking them to allow headscarved students. Yet there are still some universities and professors who insist on implementing the ban."

The draft has raised debate that it will remove the headscarf ban. DHA photo
DHA photo: "Against women the greatest violence is the headscarf ban"
"Charter panel talks headscarf freedom", in the Hurriyet Daily News, by Göksel Bozkurt, and dated 11 May 2013, includes discussion on the constitutional draft clause: “Nobody can be prohibited from fulfilling the requirements of their religious belief.” Does the clause actually mean that wearing head scarves in the public sector will be allowed across the board? Apparently that is still up for debate. Some believe that the allowance for head coverings was not intended, or if seen that way, was a mistake that should be fixed, while other hint at troubles within this new government. One comment below the article, signed "Rorschach," states: "Let's be absolutely clear about this. There is nothing, and I mean absolutely NOTHING in the koran that "requires" a Muslim woman to cover her head."

It looks like this discussion is far from closed in Turkey, as well as many other places in our world. I hope that the open hand of friendship which Turkey is holding out to the world includes being open to its own lady citizens who would choose to cover.

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EDIT: I wanted to add this article:  "Egypt, Turkey, and Tunisia Are All Slowly Islamizing", from The Atlantic, by Steven A. Cook, dated 13 May 2013. It includes some interesting history about these countries and specifically brings up the topic of head coverings in Turkey about half way through the article.
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