Monday, January 28, 2008

"We are all defenders of the secular state," says Turkish PM as he moves against headscarf ban

He's not against the secular state, you see. He just wants it to be a little more, well, Islamic. "PM wants university headscarf ban lifted asap," from Agence France-Presse (thanks to all who sent this in):

TURKISH Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said he wants a ban on the Islamic headscarf in universities abolished "as soon as possible" despite harsh objections from secularists, Anatolia news agency reported. "We want this issue to be resolved as soon as possible within the democratic parliamentarian order... It is time for this problem to come to an end," Mr Erdogan told a gathering of his Islamist-rooted Justice and Development Party (AKP) in Istanbul, Anatolia reported.

The AKP reached a preliminary deal with an opposition party on Thursday on a constitutional amendment to lift the ban, despite severe criticism from the judiciary and members of the academic community.

The AKP, the offshoot of a now-banned Islamist party, has long opposed the ban, arguing that it violates both the freedom of conscience and the right to education.

Secularist forces, including the army, senior judges and many top academics, see the headscarf as a symbol of defiance against Turkey's fiercely guarded secular system.

Easing the restrictions, they argue, will increase conservative social pressure on women to cover up.

Mr Erdogan rejected accusations that the AKP was seeking to erode secular traditions.

"How can you say that people who wear the headscarf are not secular?... We have a society in which those who cover up and those who do not both defend the democratic and secular state," he said.

"We are all defenders of the secular state," he added.



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