The adultery and the headscarf debates in Turkey: fusing “EU-niversal” and “alternative” modernities?
Müftüler-Baç, Meltem and Fisher, Nora Elizabeth (2010) The adultery and the headscarf debates in Turkey: fusing “EU-niversal” and “alternative” modernities? (Submitted)
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Today, the principle of gender equality is part and parcel of the “EU-niversal” canon which aspirants for membership to the EU must adopt. This would appear in sync with a Turkish national project that long aspired to convergence with European modernity and which flagged women’s emancipation as a symbol of such convergence. Yet, in recent years pro-religious cohorts have sought to reconfigure Turkey’s engagement of modernity, including extant readings of women’s rights. This paper draws on the literature on “multiple modernities” to examine ways an array of views on gender equality articulated in Turkey align with those set forth by mainstream figures and institutions in the EU/“Europe.” It does so by canvassing two recent debates over criminalizing adultery and permitting veiling in universities. The article reveals that the positions of secularists of all ideological backgrounds tended to converge with mainstream EU/“European” positions, whereas pro-religious arguments sought to fuse “EU-niversal” and Islamic perspectives. In the case of adultery, few secularists and European actors gave credence to pro-religious claims and many pro-religious pundits later rejected their earlier position. There was somewhat more sympathy for the pro-religious synthesis when it came to veiling. However, European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) verdicts upholding a ban on veiling in universities deeply disappointed the religious camp, spurring some to conclude that “EU-niversal” values cannot encompass “alternative” readings. Ultimately, the debates reveal that visions of women’s roles which are framed by a synthesis of rights and religious rationales encounter obstacles within the current EU/“European” legal-normative framework, though as that framework evolves this may change.
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