Tension in Turkey

30 07 2008

I still have a great big pile of blog posts and news clips to blog about, which I’ve finally organized into posts based on topic, but since my week is a little crazy, I’d just like to make a little off-the-cuff comment about what’s going on in Turkey.  For those of you who don’t know, the highest court in Turkey ruled today not to allow a ban on the ruling party but instead to cut its state funding in half for trying to impose Islam on the secular nation.

When the news was first coming out about the headscarf issue, I found it very interesting to hear the perspective of my Turkish teacher, Bahar, who like many women in Turkey is Muslim but believes strongly in the secular state.  The way she described it, secularism is the most fundamental principal of the Turkish state and thus allowing women to wear headscarves in school would be a threat to the state’s historical foundations and its values.  In other words, there is a huge fear of the slippery slope.

I have trouble deciding where I stand on this – not that it really matters, as I’m not Turkish, but I still tend to have an opinion on foreign politics.  On the one hand, I see her arguments, especially in light of what has happened in neighboring states and considering Turkey’s position and reputation as a unique secular, modern, democratic state whose population is mostly Muslim.  On the other hand, I grew up in the US where freedom of religion is heavily valued, and it seems strange to me that someone would ban a political party based on its religious ties – not all that democratic, I would think.  It will be interesting to see how all this plays out, in any event.

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One response

31 07 2008
Avi

I don’t know who to ask about this, so maybe you could enlighten me. Why is it about women’s headscarves and not men’s turbans, which were also rejected by Attaturk? OK, so that’s a somewhat cynical question, because I’m guessing that the people who want religion in public life also want to suppress women’s autonomy and choices. But I’d love to be shown I’m wrong.

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