Saturday, February 09, 2008

Headscarves on Campus

Uh oh, Turkish Parliament has voted to revoke the ban on headscarves on university campuses. You can read what Ms. Frizzle has to say about it here, but she didn’t teach on a university campus last year, and she also lived near Istanbul in a more liberal area. I strongly agree with most academics that headscarves don’t belong in the classroom. If I was a secular Turkish woman, like most of my friends there, I’d be very nervous now.
Have you ever worn a headscarf? I’ve tried it, and physically it changes the way you experience your surroundings. You have no peripheral vision. You don’t move you head or body as freely (I observed this many times watching covered women). It’s hot, and most places in Turkey don’t have air conditioning. Not to mention how it’s going to physically divide women in the classroom.
I don’t know if teachers, administrators and workers will also be able to wear headscarves to work on campus. Will let you know when I find out.

We had a small earthquake here lastnight, it felt very strange and unsettling in the pit of my stomach. Apparently there was damage south.


Anonymous said...

Why would you deny religious freedoms that people take for granted in US universities to religious Turkish women in Turkey? Your country was founded on people escaping religious persecution in England, a dynamic which still energizes pluralism in US today. There are Turkish women with headscarf studying in US universities today. Noone is telling you to cover up. But there were girls in Turkey that were not allowed to go to university because the parents knew they would be forced to take the scarf off. In this case, not only you are violeting religious expression, you are denying a little girl from the right to GET AN EDUCATION. To be independent.

Clearly this issue has many sides than a simple "oh they don't look as nice like that and I am an arts teacher and I don't like it".

kloeamongtheturks said...

Dear Anonymous,
Thanks for your comment. I don't mean to offend, I'm reflecting the views of my academic friends in Turkey.
That said, we have separation of church and state here, but it's also under fire. Look at one of the Republican presidential candidates, for example. If we had huge numbers of scarved women in public schools here, like they do in France, I'm sure it would also be an issue here in the US. There are compromises in every democracy.
And I never said headscraves don't look nice. They do. I said they restrict movement, just like high heels.
And for your information, I don't allow religious symbols of any creed to be made in my classes. I respect all religions, including and especially Islam.

Anonymous said...

Hi Kloe,

I don't think if headscarved women were in bigger numbers in US universities that then they would be an issue and they would be denied their education. US system would not give in on this freedom simply on grounds of principle. Of course as a teacher you can pile on extra restrictions in your classroom, and kids probably don't care and hence they won't do much about it, but any of them did, and you were taken to court for instance, I am afraid you would lose.

About your academic friends in Turkey: After I did the previous post, I realized they were probably the ones who presented you with the pros/cons of the argument to begin with. I know the type. French-style ultra secular/nationalist (they all are, they might hide it but they are) who will become even authoritarian in order to keep religion of any kind from any walk of life. This is all very mid 19th century European, and I know people in US might have an affinity to that geography and timeline sometimes but what you have is BETTER. You don't have a ministry of arts for example but your country produces more art than France, who does.

In a country where more than %60 of women wear the headscarf, it doesn't make sense to ban it from universities. Numbers don't matter. Who is to judge which clothing, or style of living is better than the other? Again, you should know because your country escaped this nonsense to form the country you have right now.