This post was updated.
Here’s the predictable fallout of the Higher Education Council’s recent tacit permission for women students to wear headscarves on campus (see my post below). President Gul’s wife attended a formal reception for the first time (even though I believe it is illegal for women with headscarves to attend formal government events. (In the past, separate events had been held, one official, and one that political wives with headscarves could attend. See my post below.)
The Constitutional Court has issued a warning that this is against the Constitution. And when the Constitutional Court “warns” about something, duck. The Court has brought down a number of political parties over the years. (click here)
And a father has taken the school system to court for not allowing his 13-year-old daughter to attend with a headscarf. He wants grade school and high school to allow headscarves as well. (click here, in Turkish)
This is, of course, the concern of many — that allowing headscarves in school is a slippery slope. First you allow covered women in official receptions and before you know it they’re sitting in parliament. First you allow students in college to cover, then you find covered girls in kindergarten. I sympathize with this view to some extent, but differentiate between adult women, who should be able to make decisions about what they wear, and children who cannot. According to the Quran, there is (or should be) no compulsion in Islam, and there is no religious reason children should be covered. Religious precepts and cultural conservatism are not the same, although often confused by those who are uneducated in religion. That is the role of the head of Diyanet — Turkey’s national religious leaders can speak out about the inappropriateness of veiling children, but so should local religious leaders, sheikhs, Fethulla Gulen, the lot of them. In any case, children of a secular nation should learn what that is before they can make a choice about what role religion will play in their lives as adults.
UPDATE: And now Minister of State Selma Aliye Kavaf has announced that children brought to grade school wearing headscarves may be taken away from their families by the state for mistreating them. (click here, in Turkish) Here’s an English-language update.