Headscarf row grows in Turkey

Turkey's government has again come into conflict with the secular judiciary, condemning a High Court ruling some see as a first step towards extending the country's ban on Islamic headscarves in public buildings to the streets.

    Turkey's courts strenuously restrict Islamic influence

    Earlier this week, Turkey's highest administrative court, the Council of State, said it objected to the promotion of an elementary school teacher because she wore a headscarf outside of school.
     
    Under Turkish law, women are not allowed to enter schools and other public buildings wearing headscarves, and the teacher removed it each day while teaching classes.
     
    In its decision, however, the council expressed concern that even though she removed her head covering in class, the teacher was setting a bad example for young people and had violated the secular principles of the Turkish state.
     
    The teacher, Aytac Kilinc, has said she will appeal against the decision to the European Court of Human Rights. Some Turkish cabinet ministers expressed shock and dismay on Saturday at the court's ruling.

    Decision condemned

    Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the country's Islamic-leaning prime minister, said: "As the prime minister of a country where freedom prevails, I condemn the decision. Freedom of religion and conscience cannot be restricted."

    Erdogan's wife, Emine, is an observant Muslim who wears a headscarf, as do the wives of most of the governing party's ministers.

    Erdogan: Freedom of religion and
    conscience cannot be restricted

    The wives are excluded from official government functions and formal state dinners in Turkey because they wear headscarves.
     
    Around 99% of Turks are Muslims, but the country's secular establishment, including the courts and the military, has sought for decades to restrict Islamic influence, which some political leaders saw as an obstacle to Western-style modernisation.
     
    Huseyin Celik, the education minister, said the decision was unacceptable and the state had no right to tell people what
    they could or could not wear.

    "Forcing people to dress in the same way is not something acceptable, democratically," Celik said. "We won't deal with one's clothes, hair, beard, moustache. Let's deal with what is inside the head."

    SOURCE: Agencies


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