Thursday, February 14, 2008

Asia Times: Turkey 'Wrapped and Delivered'

Sami Moubayed, a Syrian political analyst, describes the impact of Turkey's new constitutional amendment that permits young women to wear head scarves while attending universities.

[It's] hit Turkish society like an earthquake. Turkish women, after all, were given the right to vote, own property, run for political office - and the freedom to choose whether or not to wear a veil - shortly after the collapse of the Ottoman Empire in the 1920s, under president Kemal Ataturk.

One person described it as a "Black Revolution", saying that the head scarf is a political symbol and that "we will never allow our country to be dragged back into the dark ages".

Nisrin Baytok, a lawmaker, addressed the government of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, saying: "You are not opening the door for freedom; you are shutting it forever for the girls ... [whose] heads are shaved by their brothers to force them to wear head scarves."

...Secular officers in the armed forces and political establishments think otherwise, and have accused Erdogan of pursuing a hidden Islamic agenda. For a period this is what many people in the West thought as well, including the United States.

...His predecessor, Ahmad Necdet Sezar, once said "religious fundamentalism have reached dramatic proportions" in Turkey and argued that Islamic fundamentalism "is trying to infiltrate politics, education, and the state; it is systematically eroding values".

...In cases where a theocracy is in power, like Iran and Saudi Arabia, the veil is obligatory and not observing it can lead to severe punishment. In Iran, prosecutor general Abolfazl Musavi-Tabrizi once said, "Anyone who rejects the principle of hijab in Iran is an apostate, and the punishment for an apostate under Islamic law is death." Under the Taliban in Afghanistan, it was claimed that "the face of a woman is a source of corruption" and therefore, it should be covered...

Moubayed is of the opinion that permitting the hijab is appropriate, since it reflects the will of the people. I'm not convinced. I'm guessing it soon becomes required of all females due to harassment of those who choose not to wear it.

As the residents of Gaza found out, if Democratic institutions are used to elect a totalitarian government, those institutions are very short-lived indeed.

In this case, I'll gladly take wagers that the extremists will soon succeed in establishing religious law as superior to secular law.

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