Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Turkish universities to allow headscarves

With the Islamist tide rising in Turkey, it seems that the ban on headscarves in universities will be lifted (see e.g. VOA News and this blog which, by the way, mentions Bulgaria.)
I have very mixed feelings about headscarves in universities (and also in secondary schools, where the problem is entirely different). However, from my personal selfish viewpoint, I shall be happy if they are allowed in Turkish universities. Because then fewer headscarved students can be expected to come from Turkey to study in our universities. And, as I have already written, while foreign students in general aren't the teacher's dream, the headscarved girls from Turkey seem to be the worst students we've ever had.
Let me now cite and translate some things written about the headscarves in August 2007 in the ABV's Islam forum (this is the only place where I have seen ordinary Muslim citizens of Bulgaria online). A non-Muslim participant asks, "Turkish society is worried by the decision of Abdullah Gul's wife not to take off her headscarf if her husband is elected as President. Why? What do you think scares people when they see a headscarved woman? I have two Iranian friends living in Sweden. When we begin to discuss Islam they blister from horror the same way I blistered when we were discussing totalitarian rule and communism... Are headscarves some inclination to totalitarian rule? Is this why people are afraid?" A little later, another non-Muslim writes, "Tell me what the headscarf means (except when it is a necessary garment!) Do you deny that Muslimas put on headscarves to protect themselves from male lustful looks? Or perhaps the headscarf's function is to shield from mosquitos?" Muslims reply, "People, and particularly Turks, are scared by the fact that the headscarf covers not only the woman's hair but also her brain... Let's clarify a thing between us, we are Muslims. I dislike the Arab covering... to hide all of the woman's flesh, to leave just the gleaming eyes and then to claim that the woman isn't oppressed... And at the same time the man goes around and looks at our women - here I feel like saying something as if commenting a soccer match... Our mothers, sisters, wives, daughters who dress normally are still Muslimas and aren't obliged to endure lustful "Muslim" looks..."
Now, to counter the European supremacy that apparently creeped into the above cited debate, let me quote two Arab blogs.
Highlander, Dec. 2006: "If you asked me the ratio of veiled women in Libya to non-veiled I would confidently say that now, veiled of all types are a comfortable majority... Sometimes I feel discriminated against , not in an obvious way, just those tiny hints. For example last time I was chatting with some colleagues : “Highlander , you‘re such a nice person, why don’t wear a scarf (only a scarf mind you) and you will see you will get married straight away”."
Leilouta, Oct. 2006 (I hope she is OK): "In Saudi Arabia women are forced to wear the veil, in Tunisia they are not allowed. Both places are equal, women aren't free to choose.Wouldn't it be easier to fight extremism by having an open free society with equality and a good economy to provide jobs and futures, instead of politicizing cloth?"
Commenter Massir, writing on the same Leilouta's post: "Nooo, it is not the same thing. In Tunisia, we struggled for our freedom. I don't want to wear a hijab. Leilouta, you are living in US, you cannot understand. You are talking about theory (théorie). Sure, everybody must have the choice, but there is not an islamic country wich allow you to have this choice. That's why, i'm against the "going back" to the hijab... I went to Egypt years ago, egyptian women were not veiled. I went back there last year, all women in the streets wear the hijab. Everything has changed. Years ago, in Tunisia, only few women were veiled. Now, they are increasing every day. Years ago, I could go to my office wearing sleeveless shirts, nowadays, I cannot. Years ago, I could eat and drink in the streets in Ramadan. Nowadays, I cannot even drink my coffee in my office. Everybody will stare at me. So where is my freedom???? I want to be free. I want to wear the clothes I like. I don't want to pray, or fast...I WANT TO BE FREE.THERE IS NO FREEDOM IN ISLAMIC SOCIETIES!!!!!!"
A complicated issue, isn't it? But, to return to my viewpoint - I'll be glad if no more female students receive a scholarship just for wearing a headscarf, and I'll be glad if headscarved girls study at home, we don't need such "exports".

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