Hicab, türban, and democracy: religious freedom versus political protest
Kalaycioglu, M. Ersin (2009) Hicab, türban, and democracy: religious freedom versus political protest. Monograph. University of Aberdeen, Centre for the Study of Public Policy, University of Aberdeen, Scotland.
The attire of women, in particular the style of donning of the headscarves to cover the head, neck and the bosoms of women (türban) by pious Sunni women has once again become the center of controversy in Turkish higher education and politics. The amended versions of articles 10 and 42 of the 1982 Constitution of Turkey, which enhance equality before the law of the Turkish citizens, were referred to the scrutiny of the Constitutional Court as a potential breach of the secularist principles of the Republic. Almost simultaneously, the AKP, which won the most votes and seats in the National Assembly after the July 22, 2007 elections and form the government, has also been indicted on the grounds of becoming the focal point of activities against secularism. The Constitutional Court will also decide whether the AKP will be closed down or not. This is all because the resuscitation of the debate on the donning of turban on the university campuses and other public institutions of Turkey has been defended as a religious right of the religious women by the conservative parties of Turkey, and resisted as the promotion of a symbol of political Islam by the secularist parties and political forces of the country. In this paper, I will use the data collected during June 23 and July 16, 2007 in a nationally representative survey of voter attitudes, beliefs, values and reported behavior, and determine to what extent the adult population in Turkey perceived the türban as a religious right of the pious women and also as a symbol of religious freedom. Secondly, I will also examine the extent to which the voters perceive the türban as a pressing issue that needed the attention of the National Assembly and the government. Thirdly, a few studies have so far been conducted by Carkoglu, Göle, Kalaycioglu, Özdalga, and Toprak to examine the role of türban in Turkish politics and society, and none so far on the role that attitudes toward the türban play in the decisions of the voters at the polls. I will examine the role the türban played in determining the party preferences of the voters at the polls on July 22, 2007, and thus contributed to the election victory of the AKP, all of the leaders of which have wives who don the türban.
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