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Islam and Politics ( 10 Dec 2013, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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Lifting Ban on Hijab in Turkey: A Stealth Step toward Islamism or Evolution of Secularism


By Mohamed Zayed

7 December 2013

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said “A dark time eventually comes to an end.” “Headscarf-wearing women are full members of the republic, as well as those who do not wear it,” he added. Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, Turkish army officer who founded the Turkish Republic, had established a republic based on nationalism and secularism, erasing any religious or political symbols representing the era of the Ottoman Empire to westernize the Turkish society, but is that called extremist secularism?

Women rights and human rights groups think that this step would give the Turkish women their own rights to wear anything of their choice as an issue of privacy. Turkish veiled women previously had no right to get employed in the public and private institutions as only certain companies with Islamic affiliation would hire them and others do not as ING Bank Turkey refused to interview a young woman for a job just because she was wearing a headscarf, thus depriving them of building their future and contributing to fostering the Turkish economy. In addition, analysts compare Iran to Turkey as both of them have one something in common: Iran has imposed the veil on women and Turkey has imposed ban on wearing the veil for women.

An Ankara judge postponed a trial due to the presence of a head-scarved lawyer. Dilshod Achilov, a political scientist at the East Tennessee State University and an expert on Mideast politics, called the event in the Ankara parliament “very significant indeed.” “It is a major historic milestone for Turkish democracy. It is yet another sign that the consolidation of democratic norms, in the context of advancing individual civil liberties, continues to mature in the Republic of Turkey.” But there are many worries within Turkish society who still believe in Attaturk’s modern principles for building Turkey.

Huseyin Celik, deputy chairman of the ruling Justice and Development Party, criticized a female host of a TV show on a private channel for wearing hot blouse on screen. It is reported that she has been dismissed after that according to The New York Times. Moreover, a recent package of laws in the Turkish parliament dominated by Erdogan’s Islamist party put restrictions on the sale of alcohol as about 28.5 million tourists visit Turkey annually, thus hurting the image of Turkey as a pioneer in the tourism market. As some secularists easily link the headscarf to some of the gender inequality and brutality that takes place in some Muslim societies, as in Afghanistan, Pakistan or Saudi Arabia, they don’t see the lifting of the ban as a step towards women’s rights in Turkey.

In conclusion,  it is noted that when Atatürk established the Turkish republic, he sought to propagate the idea of Turkishness only without taking into any religion or ethnicities differences, paving the way for decades long clash with the Kurdish minority that represent about fifth of the Turkey’s population. So, besides lifting ban on Hijab, Erdogan has carried out reforms, as part of other major measures such as changing the election system to allow more parties to elect for the parliament, to ease the tension with the Kurdish as a nationalist oath recited by students at schools will be removed as it starts with “I am a Turk.” Moreover, most of the developed countries like USA, UK, and Canada offer freedom of religion and wearing any clothes. At the same time, that does not affect their breakthrough in economics, science, creativity and tolerance in their societies.

But the ruling party in Turkey should bear in mind that it should not ignore the rights of secularists and moderate Muslims so as not to repeat the mistake of Atatürk who founded the modern  secular Turkey without taking into account the feeling of religious groups and ethnic minorities. Finally, the Turkish government should review its jailed journalists and bloggers who oppose Erdogan’s policies to show good gestures to the Turkish and the international community.