43 Belgrave Square
7th February 2008
Re: Turkey’s Hijab Debate
Dear Ambassador Akin Alptuna,
We write with regards to the AKP led government’s recent proposal to parliament to lift the ban on the wearing of the hijab in universities. The fact that the hijab ban has once again been thrown into parliamentary debate reflects the growing desire of Muslim women in Turkey to live their lives by Islam. It also unveils the fact that the credibility of the secular model of governance in the Muslim world is fast waning.
Turkey’s hijab ban in universities, schools and public institutions has had an enormous impact on the lives of Muslim women in Turkey, denying them a right to an education and employment in the public sector as teachers, doctors, or civil servants. Thousands of women have chosen not to go to university, to study abroad or to be expelled from their studies rather than to compromise their religious obligation and women have been sacked from their jobs. Even political figures in Turkey have not been spared the wrath of the secular whip. As you know, the first Muslim woman who won her seat in parliament and dared to wear her hijab during the oath-taking ceremony faced humiliating taunts of hundreds of secularists demanding her expulsion.
The Turkish government struggles to conform to the secular credentials of the European Union, whilst many of its women are moving towards lives based upon Islamic credentials, remaining unconvinced, both intellectually and morally, by the beliefs and values of the secular ideology. Your party’s continued commitment to Kemalist secular ideals has been blind to its inherent contradictions. While secularism espouses personal freedom and claims to liberate Muslim women from lives of oppression, in reality it has treated Muslim women in an authoritarian fashion, dictating any dress code other than that which Islam obliges. The European Union may call Turkey to fall into step with human rights and secular values, but its silence over Turkey’s hijab ban shows that when it comes to Islamic obligations their rhetoric is meaningless.
It beggars belief that in a country that is 99% Muslim, a woman is permitted to expose her body or even commit adultery in the name of secular freedoms while being unable to dress according to the basic tenets of Islam. It is not Islam that is a barrier to the active participation of the woman in public life but fundamentalist secularism. What does it say about the intellectual strength of the secular ideology when it feels threatened by a square metre of cloth?
Merely lifting the hijab ban in universities will do little to avert the anger amongst Muslim women towards the headscarf ban in other public institutions across the country nor will it quell their growing desire for Islam to have a greater voice in the politics of their country. For it is the secular system that will keep working against the revival of Islam. It is the system that will always work to reduce the arenas in which the hijab can be worn. The growing tide of opinion to overturn the hijab ban reflects the continual confidence that Muslim women in Turkey and throughout the world now have in Islam and the Islamic model as the template in creating a more just and civilised society. This Islamic model of governance is the Khilafah state.
For decades, the secular fundamentalists of Turkey have attempted to erode its glorious Islamic history as the seat of the Uthmani Khilafah, but globally Muslim women have understood that their position in society will only be elevated with the return of the Khilafah state. It is this state alone that will enable Muslim women to practice their religious obligations without harassment while simultaneously securing their right to education, employment and enable them to have an active political role – all within an environment of respect and protection of the morality of the society.
In this regard, the women’s chapter of Hizb ut-Tahrir Britain stands in support of their Muslim sisters in Turkey who wish to see the hijab ban lifted from all institutions across the country, and the return of justice, honour and dignity for all under the Islamic Khilafah.
It is only under the Islamic Khilafah system that will ensure that women will be valued and able to engage in society as human beings not as commodities.
Dr Nazreen Nawaz
Women’s Media Representative
Hizb ut-Tahrir Britain