Turkey and Headscarves

Posted On // Leave a Comment

Recently, Turkey is attempting to ease the ban on headscarves for universities, and has in fact made quite some progress. Yet, the ban in itself has yet to be challenged and the concessions being made are minor and at best cosmetic.

The ban on headscarves in Turkish universities came about after an overly Islamist government was ousted by the secularist military.

This secular move by the mainly secular military and bureaucratic establishment has angered a great deal of people and remains a contentious issue. Not only are headscarves banned for civil servants or pupils in state-run schools as in France, but also in private colleges, driving license courses, court rooms and even some hospitals.

This move seems counter to the notion of liberty, yet, it has been upheld by even the European Court of Human Rights, with the justification of it being to maintain equality regardless of religion and to keep society as secular as possible.

On the principle level, scholars have disputed the notion of whether Muslim women have to cover themselves up and the extent of this coverage. I quote from the BBC.

"Muslim scholars have debated whether it is obligatory to don the niqab, or whether it is just recommended without being obligatory.

There have also been more liberal interpretations which say the headscarf is unnecessary, as long as women maintain the sartorial modesty stipulated in the Koran.

The holy text addresses "the faithful women" who are told to shield their private parts and not to display their adornment "except what is apparent of it".

Scholarly disputes revolve around what this last phrase means.

Does it refer to the outer surface of a woman's garments, necessitating that she cover every part of her body - ie don the full niqab?

Or does it give an exemption referring to the face and the hands, as well as conventional female ornaments such as kohl, rings, bracelets and make-up?"
    The implication of this ambiguity is that there is no longer a clear distinction between simply practising your religion and attempting to fuel the encroachment of Islam in a secular society.

    In light of the theological dispute and biblical ambiguity that is illustrated above, it has become clear that it is unclear whether headscarves are mandatory. This however does not mean that headscarves need to be banned, since it is after all still up to the individual to decide since this individual should at least be given this fundamental freedom that supposedly does not impose on the rights of anyone else. Yet, the secularist military decided instead that a ban was necessary in order to protect the rights of women they were now infringing upon.

    There are only 2 reasons i can think of for such a paradoxical move.

    The first is that women there and then were facing societal pressure, from families, heretics or churches to wear headscarves against their will. Of course this reason is a valid one, but to simply impose a blanket ban just because there exists a portion of society who were being forced to wear headscarves does seem a little overboard.

    The second could be that the government didn't want racial differences to be exemplified through dressing. No doubt racial harmony is of great importance, yet this simply cannot be a justification.

    To compound this further, the notion of equality being best demonstrated through dressing is a fallacy on all counts. Not only is dressing so grossly superficial it doesn't really matter at all, especiall

    Parliament voted 403-107 in favour of a first amendment, which will insert a paragraph into the constitution stating that everyone has the right to equal treatment from state institutions, Parliament Speaker Koksal Toptan was quoted by AP as saying.

    MPs then backed by 403-108 votes a second amendment stating "no-one can be deprived of [his or her] right to higher education", AP said.