That Slippery Slope

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)

Photo from Radikal

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.

33 Responses to “That Slippery Slope”

  1. The headscarf debate and the YOK’s decision has opened the box of Pandora.

    In Iran children must cover to go to school and schools are segregated. Is this what Turkey is aiming to?

    Also, if a father doens’t take his daughter to school because she can’t be covered inside, I think he gave away what do you think about education for women and should be punished for it. It is not religious freedom what is at stake!

    ” 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.”

    I whole-heartedly agree with this last sentence.

  2. A pubescent girl might be a child for you, but families disagree. Besides, not many of the people you speak of want a secular order. In fact your very approach where people’s thinking process remain rooted in some common secular/rational framework while they investigate what scripture says is precisely the kind of thing many people (some of whom you advertised) spend their lives arguing against. Gulen himself became pragmatic about this in his public decrees after the 28th Feb. post-modern coup, but even I could dig up what he’d been telling people previously in tapes that are used for brainwashing. So what you wish isn’t going to happen unless people sink further in hypocrisy w/o there being any power scaring them into it. Masses of people are not manipulable to the extent where you tell them one thing for years and then tell them something different and expect them to comply or keep respecting you. What’s interesting is that AKP people are reacting to this 13 year-old’s actions and calling it a provocation because, perhaps, in addition to things like this triggering some legal action from the weakened judiciary, they might be thinking they themselves might lose control. I’ll quote Serif Mardin from here:
    .
    […] Bazı İslami alt-çevreler ortaya çıkıyor. Bunda günümüzün gelişmiş imkanları da etkili oluyor. Mahalle havası dediğimiz şeyin bu İslami alt-çevrelerle yeni bir şekil almış olduğuna inanıyorum. Bu yeni şekil AKP’yi döver. Demek istiyorum ki eğer böyle bir hava gelişirse AKP ona biat etmek zorunda kalabilir. (emphasis mine)
    .
    None of this necessarily horrible, though. Perhaps at some cost, the society will move forward in some sense once it is allowed to start moving.

  3. “Religious precepts and cultural conservatism are not the same, although often confused by those who are uneducated in religion”

    Oh, sorry, it is only those who are “educated in religion” who deserve Jenny´s hearing. Well, I would like somebody to explain me how religious precepts are not enforcing social conservatism! Is it not the religion (any religion) that promotes the gender inequality, and if so, is it not akin to promoting social conservatism?

    “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”

    The naivete of Jenny White is boundless. Is it only “religious leaders” who are entitled/legitimised to speak about these topics? What about the rest of us? Or, as we are “uneducated in religion”, we should simply shut up, and wait for an “religiously educated” opinion from diyanet, Fethullah Gulen or some other lunatic? Well, if this is good enough for Jenny, go ahead! I personally don´t give a damn about their opinions. There are enough SECULAR reasons to resist the headscarf, without resorting to supersticions and religions.

    Really, the dumbest things that I´ve read in my life are almost always produced by “scholars”.

  4. This is outrageous. Somebody ought to take that man to court for violating his daughter’s freedom of religion, and threatening to violate her right to an education too. When are people going to understand that a child can not consent to these things? A person can only make these decisions as an informed adult.

  5. Very religious people can’t understand that their children might want to live a life outside religion, Remember that funny video in which a little girl cries because she has learnt at school that Atatürk is dead? This is an Islamic answer by küçük Ayşe: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7Ca0MMfwpkU

  6. thanks, Renata.

    This ugly bearded, unwashed man in the picture is a child abuser, a criminal, a parasite, a pathologically ill creature. And this lot is ruling Turkey now!

  7. parviz i think you need psychological treatment. how do you know that the man is unwashed :) have you visited the guy smelled his body? judging people by how they dress and how they shave does not make you a better creature. if they are islamist pathologically ill people, you are a secular pathologically ill person:)

  8. “Religious precepts and cultural conservatism are not the same, although often confused by those who are uneducated in religion”

    So the solution is to force our population to attend some kind of a graduate level class on the differences between the letter and spirit of Quran with references to cultural conservatism? I do not think such a class would even be offered at the undergraduate level. And the Diyanet and Gulen are going to orchestrate this? I dont want my kid to cry all day long.

    Also going back to one of the questions raised in this blog. What will covered women do when they complete their university programs? Look at the photo, and tell me something to convince me that she will be able to pursue a life of her choosing.

  9. It was the chief prosecutor of Yargitay (the supreme court of appeals, I think) that did the doing attributed to the constitutional court in this post.

  10. According to the Quran, there is (or should be) no compulsion in Islam, and there is no religious reason children should be covered.

    .
    First: Citation is needed.
    .
    Second: Kuran doesn’t define the whole of Islam. There are all sorts of other things, namely, ‘Kuran’, ‘Sünnet’, ‘Kiyas’, ‘Icma’ and ‘Ictihad’. Please look them up before making authoritative statement in passing.
    .
    Third: Are you sure your definition of ‘children’ coincides with that of Islam? If not, please look it up too.

  11. CA: In answer to your citation query, a Q&A from Tariq Ramadan (http://www.tariqramadan.com/Muslim-Scholars-Speak-Out.html):

    In Islam, there can be no compulsion or coercion in matters of faith not only because it is explicitly forbidden in the Qur’an but also because free conscious and choice and willing submission are foundational to the first pillar (declaration of faith) and essential to the very definition of “Islam”.

  12. Ali, I don´t care about your opinion. Fundamentalists are dirty, ill, perverse, pathological creatures no matter whether they wash, shave or not. It is their essence that is dirty. The world should be freed from them.

  13. It´s funny how an American atheist Michael finds it necessary to cite an Islamic fundamentalist like Tariq Ramadan to underlie his point. I mean, those of us who are non-believers, can´t we just use our own secular logic to make our points, without resorting to the opinins of the religious luminaries? Is it because some people feel so insecure in their own worldview that they feel the need to validate it in religious language? Or is it because of the urge to be nice to Muslims? None of the two possible reasons is good enough. Religion is, after all, nothing but a superstition. Why use it to underlie a very basic point that nobody can be forced to live or dress certain way without his/her consent? It is so not because Ramadan thinks so, but because of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and subsequent conventions on human rights and fundamentsal freedoms, all of which are infinitely more important that Quran, Bible and other booklets for underdeveloped minds.

  14. Look at the latest developments in Turkey. The gene is out of the bottle, and I have a feeling that we will witness all sorts of craziness in the upcoming days. I guess Islam looks a little different from thousands of miles away but the matter of the fact is that who will educate the masses on what Islam along with its cumbersome tail (sunna, ictihat, and etc.) truly says and means when there is no consensus even among religious authorities and scholars. There are way too many interpretations. So we first have to find the right interpretation that fits our life style, then the right version of democracy that not only fits our life style but also our vision for a free future, and then reconcile them. Of course in the meantime, given the dominance of the Muslim majority, we will run the risk of sticking to the fundamentals of Islam in order to prevent excessive noise. I guess it is time for Erdogan to make another paternalistic speech assuring that everything will be just fine. After all, we love the father figures… too bad for those who are victims of father abuse.

  15. Chronic Anonymous,

    There is only one definition of a child: a child is a child, and his/her rights are defended by international conventions of universal validity. Whatever Quran and other sources you mention have to say on the subject is utterly irrelevant. I find it pitiful that in 21 st century there are still people who seriously believe in the nonsense written in the so-called “sacred books”.

  16. Parviz, on secular grounds, the claims of universality of political documents are just as suspect as universality and timelessness of scripture. Universal validity only applies to things like analytical logic, which, BTW, is what makes what I have said valid and your position suspect. (No you don’t get anything goes relativism from this. It just that the case cannot be made by screaming EU or UN or whatever. That’s just appeal to authority of documents arising from political compromise.)
    .
    Note:
    .
    — This family has moved from Sirnak to Mersin. We don’t know what happened to them in Sirnak that caused them to move.
    .
    — We don’t know what’s happening to them in Mersin either. Mersin is an area where migrants from points East find themselves facing ethnic tension.
    .
    — We don’t know what that school is like. How many kids to a classroom? Any ethnic tension between kids or between teachers and kids? Are they learning? Has this kid learned she should cover at school? [1]
    .
    We don’t seem to care about any of this until that kid dons a headscarf at which point she becomes ever so precious that we’re willing to send the cops over to force the dad into doing some ‘universal’ thing or other.
    .
    [1] Who’s monitoring what teachers are doing in, say, compulsory religion classes? They were elective in my time and those of us who took the class once got our teacher to research the djinn and bring us pictures of them for example! I can’t fault the guy, really. His students ask a question and he goes and flips through whatever journals religion teachers read and finds an answer. This is what you expect diligent teachers to do. It is funny when it is me, son of an engineer and third generation city second generation Istanbul dweller facing an undereducated teacher from a peasant family in an elective class. Such things are not funny when teachers actually have authority.

  17. Michael,
     
    That bit you quote from Tariq Ramadan is about adults and is only mentionable in the context of conversion to Islam –IOW, it does not apply children (of Muslim persons).
     
    Parviz,
     

    Ali, I don’t care about your opinion. Fundamentalists are dirty, ill, perverse, pathological creatures no matter whether they wash, shave or not. It is their essence that is dirty. The world should be freed from them.

    Most fundamentalists are much less fundamentalist than you are.
     

    It’s funny how an American atheist Michael finds it necessary to cite an Islamic fundamentalist like Tariq Ramadan to underlie his point.

     
    It’s not his fault; he only tried to back it up with a citation as an academic would.
     
    JW was the one who chose to appear to know the system from within and attempt to highlight a systemic controversy.
     
    I am yet to hear/read exactly where she did get that information.
     

    There is only one definition of a child: a child is a child, and his/her rights are defended by international conventions of universal validity.

     
    No, there isn’t a universal and enforceable definition.
     
    And, surprise surprise, int.l conventions can’t do any defending; they are mere pieces of text just like any other.
     

    I mean, those of us who are non-believers, can’t we just use our own secular logic to make our points, without resorting to the opinins of the religious luminaries?

     
    Yes, we can.
     
    And we should.
     
    That would be the decent thing.
     

    Is it because some people feel so insecure in their own worldview that they feel the need to validate it in religious language?

     
    Not just that.
     
    There is also this: “See, that thing we don’t want you to do is also frowned upon by your own fundamentals”.
     
    IOW, what we’re doing is less of a persuasion effort; more like gray propoganda.
     

    the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and subsequent conventions on human rights and fundamentsal freedoms, all of which are infinitely more important that Quran, Bible and other booklets for underdeveloped minds.

     
    All the stuff you listed as ‘infinitely more important’ is as much of figments of imagination and as unenforceable as the rest.

  18. Parviz I think you do not care about anyone’s opinion but your own:) and that makes you as aggressive as radical Islamists. By the way I want to remind something: Turkey is ruled by Turkish people.

  19. CA,

    your logic is fundamentally flawed. You simply don’t realise that international conventions ARE enforceable by courts, like the Human Rights Court in Strasbourg, to which Turkey voluntarily submitted itself when it became party to the European Convention. Its decisions are obligatory to Turkey.

    Ali, you better read the above as well and get some idea how the modern world works. Absolute sovereignty is not on anymore. Forget about it. Or be like the Islamic Republic of Iran, hated and despised by its own people.

  20. Parviz you really need psychological treatment.You are very very aggressive. You should really see psychiatrist. If you represent modernity, then there is something wrong with it:)

  21. Ali, don’t poke your nose into things that are none of your business. I couldn’t care less whether you appreciate my style of arguing or not. You are nobody.

  22. Parviz,

    your logic is fundamentally flawed.

    I had a strong feeling it would come across as such to you :)

    You simply don’t realise that international conventions ARE enforceable by courts, like the Human Rights Court in Strasbourg,

    Oh, come on.
     
    We all (well.. except may be you) know those bodies are all but cosmetic.
     
    Give me a single case whereby US –for example– has been taken to one of those courts for openly breaching human rights.
     
    I could name so many such cases which –if committed by smaller countries– would have the whole world standing up.

  23. CA, you are wrong again. As you could have guessed, the US is not part of the European conventions, and is not subject to decisions by European courts.

  24. Jenny i apologize but may i ask why do not you accept my last post? remember You criticize Turkey when it comes to free speech:)

  25. Ali, Please read the blog’s Rules for Commenting. I’m pretty flexible, but I do occasionally omit a comment that appears to be simply an ad hominem attack and has no other qualitative content. Unlike Bulent Arinc, though, I don’t insist on good grammar.

  26. I must admit that Jenny really IS very flexible. One thing I admire about America is its genuine commitment to free speech. That’s why I still linger on here, despite my own frequent misgivings about her comments and sources. But generally this is a quite useful blog.

  27. Jenny if Parviz’s comment about me is acceptable, then why my comment was unacceptable? Can you please explain. I am really surprised. Also remember what did he say about that guy in the picture: “This ugly bearded, unwashed man in the picture….” Is this statement more acceptable than my comment that you have not published? Or does it comply with your blog’s rules for commenting? I think it is very easy to criticize Bulent Arinc:) Let’s look at ourselves first:) By the way, I do not know why but freedom of speech in America reminds me Helen Thomas:)

  28. Parviz,

    you are wrong again.

    I am only wrong for not highlighting the fact that the example you gave wasn’t universally international.Indeed, practically no ‘convention’ is universal; it’s only (mildly, at that) binding for its signatories.

    the US is not part of the European conventions, and is not subject to decisions by European courts.

    Hmm… does this mean US has an inherent immunity for human rights viloations?
    .
    If so, how come you seem to go along with it?

  29. By the way, I do not know why but freedom of speech in America reminds me Helen Thomas :)

    She was free to express her opinion; and the powers that be exercised theirs by firing her in order to alleviate the pain. Truth hurts.

  30. Finally, the government realizes that being a parent does not give you a blank check to treat your children how you please: Üskül: Devlet çocukları alır

    BMM İnsan Haklarını İnceleme Komisyonu Başkanı Zafer Üskül’den uyarı geldi. Üskül, “Bu iş daha ileriye giderse, aile çocuğu baskı altına alıp öğrenim özgürlüğünü engelliyorsa devlet o çocuğu alır ve öğrenim görmesini sağlar” dedi.

    No matter what the debate is over, children should get an education.

  31. Here’s what one father says (from YO’s blog):

    http://video.cnnturk.com/2010/haber/10/22/beni-allahin-tehdidinden-koruyun

  32. OK here’s a search about what this particular girl has been up to (there’s a lot of stuff): http://www.google.com/search?q=ece+nur+ozel
    .
    I suspect CA, YO and I [e-]know someone who’s involved with the organizations that are mentioned. These are not necessarily AKP people, AFAIK and this might be why AKP people say they may get tough on such activism.

  33. It turns out our e-interlocutor at YO’s blog does indeed know these people. Here’s what he said: http://yuksekokcedenmemleketmanzarasi.blogspot.com/2010/10/hizmet-alan-da-hizmet-veren-de-memnunsa.html?showComment=1287943140519#c6816546957025524792

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