2003 April 28 Monday
Headscarves And Islam In France And Turkey

Whether women should be allowed to wear Islamic headscaves in Turkey is a major point of disagreement between the Islamic party that now controls the government and the military and other members of the governing class of Turkey who view themselves as guardians of the secular nature of the Turkish government. The Muslim headscarf has been cause of a recent flap in Turkish politics.

The wife of the parliamentary speaker in Turkey has decided not to attend one of his official receptions because of a row over her wearing an Islamic-style headscarf.

Earlier, Turkey's powerful military, the president and also several opposition figures - who consider themselves guardians of the secular republic - warned that they would boycott the event if she attended in a headscarf.

Even though the wives of the most senior Islamic Justice and Development Party (AKP in its Turkish initials) leaders did not come to the reception other Islamic party wives came and they wore their scarves.

Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan's wife, who also wears a head scarf, did not attend the reception, but a half-dozen or so spouses of deputies did turn up in scarves.

Unwilling to attend an event where any women wore head scarves, various anti-Islamists still boycotted the reception.

President Ahmet Necdet Sezer, who is firmly anti-Islamist, like-minded generals and the leader of the main opposition stayed away because the headscarf-swathed wife of Bulent Arinc, the parliamentary speaker who was the event's host, was expected to show up.

The attempt to bring wives wearing headscarves to government receptions is an attempt to take a smaller step having been intimidated by the Turkish military from taking larger steps toward allowing a greater role for Islam in the public sphere.

In recent months, that has meant retreating from plans to expand academic freedom by reshaping the university system, to grant women the right to wear head scarves in schools and public buildings, to limit the army's power to expel soldiers accused of religious extremism and to adopt a softer position in negotiations with Greece over the fate of Cyprus. The party has also been unable or unwilling to force the bureaucracy to implement new laws aimed at granting the minority Kurdish population greater cultural rights.

Turkish society as a whole is probably becoming more Islamic. The military may well be fighting a rearguard action. Younger officers may be more religious than the older officers that they will some day replace. Turkey is also trying to become a member state of the European Union. If Turkey makes it into the EU then on current demographic trends it will some day be the most populous state in Europe.

Meanwhile, France has the largest percentage of Muslims of any current European Union member state and France too is having a political controversy over the wearing of Muslim headscarfs in government institutions.

While the Interior Ministry said there was no plan to change the law and Education Minister Luc Ferry said a ban could be unconstitutional, a range of politicians came down firmly in the anti-headscarf camp.

Socialist Party leader Francois Hollande said headscarves were "out of place in schools".

Various French politicians are taking positions on the proposal to ban the wearing of headscarves in schools.

Paris - France needs a new law to reassert secular values in its state schools against growing radical Islamic trends among Muslim pupils and a related rise in anti-Semitism, Education Minister Luc Ferry said on Tuesday.

Recently French Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy was booed when he told a meeting of Muslims that people should be bare-headed when posing for identity photographs.

Speaking Saturday evening before an audience of around 10,000 conservative Muslims in a Paris suburb Sarkozy received boos and cat-calls when he said all women are obliged to remove their head covering when they pose for identity photographs.

``The law says that on the photo for identity cards the person must be bare-headed, whether it is a man or a woman .... There is no reason why Muslim women should not respect this,'' the minister told the meeting of the Union of Islamic Organisations in France (UOIF).

Most French Muslims want the government to fund Koranic schools and they oppose the bank on headscarves for girls in school.

According to a poll of France's Muslims in the newspaper Le Figaro last month, 72 percent of France's Muslims said they hoped the United States would lose the war in Iraq. Seventy-nine percent favor the creation of private Koranic schools funded by the state and 55 percent are opposed to the ban on head scarves for girls in schools.

You might be wondering why the wearing of an article of clothing should be the target of government bans. To a liberal Western mind the issue might initially seem to be a matter of respecting individual rights to wear what one wants to wear. But the problem is that the question of which choice (allowing or not allowing the wearing of the headscarfs) results in the most voluntary and free society is not so clear. Theodore Dalrymple cuts to the heart of the matter.

The Agence France Presse reports that scarf partisans are duplicitously using a double tactic and a double language to impose their views on Muslim women—their ultimate goal being the destruction of the liberal-democratic state itself. On the one hand, they appeal in public to the doctrine of universal human rights, which are observed only in states such as France; on the other, in private, they use the traditional male dominance of their culture—including the threat of violence—to impose their views on others in the name of Holy Writ. After all, in some giant housing projects surrounding Paris and other French cities, young Muslim women who dress in western clothing are deemed to be fair game, inviting—indeed, asking for—rape by gangs of Muslim youths. In such circumstances, it is impossible to know whether the adoption of Islamic dress by women in western society is ever truly voluntary, and so long as such behavior persists, the presumption must be against it being so.

In short, Islamic extremists use secularism to impose theocracy: a tactic that calls to mind that of the communists of old, who appealed to freedom of speech with the long-term aim of extinguishing it altogether. The parallel is all the more exact, because just as Moscow financed the communists, the Saudis finance many of the Muslim extremists.

Where women are allowed to wear headscarfs and where militant Islamists are to be found on the streets any woman who does not wear a scarf is easily identified as not obeying the rules that the Islamists think women should all obey. This marks the bareheaded women for attack. Various levels of assault including rape and disfiguring assaults with chemicals have occurred to women who didn't wear a scarf in a number of Islamic societies. The intimidation that leads to the widespread wearing of headscarf is just one step. Even today many women in post-Taliban Afghanistan are afraid to stop wearing the far more concealing chadors.

Muslims in France and Turkey are now arguing that a ban on the wearing of headscarfs in public facilities is a violation of human rights. If the French government tries to enforce a ban then, as Dalrymple reports, Muslim groups will almost certainly appeal to the European Court of Human Rights. If the French government loses that case this will send a powerful signal to the Turkish secularists that they will have to concede defeat on this issue of Turkey is to be admitted to the EU. The stakes here are enormous.

To put the headscarf debates in France and Turkey in a gritty realistic context be sure to read Theodore Dalrymple on the French Muslim ghettoes if you have not already read his excellent essay on the topic. Also read more about Muslim rapists in France.

Here are some more examples. A female Kuwaiti was attacked for failing to cover her head.

This past April in Kuwait seven people were charged with beating a Kuwaiti female student for failing to wear the Islamic hijab head covering. The assailants whipped the 20-year-old unidentified woman with an electric cord, fractured her arm, and cut off strands of her hair.

In Malaysian even the wearing of Islamic dress doesn't entirely protect women from Islamist attacks.

24/3/00 Headscarves Compulsory in Kelantan, Terengganu

These two Malaysian states dopminated by PAS (Pan-Malaysia Islamic Party) are trying to enforce the wearing of tudung by muslim women. Recently the Kota Baru Municipal Council fined 23 muslim women for not wearing headscarves while at work. Opposition parties and women's groups say that the wearing of tudung is a matter of personal choice and there should be no compulsion. A woman activist pointed out that women wearing islamic dress are still being raped and harassed.

Share |      By Randall Parker at 2003 April 28 12:24 AM  Civilizations Clash Of


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