Thursday, September 27, 2007

the turkish headscarf debate

In Bodrum, Turkey, where I arrived last night, there are very few Turkish women donning the headscarf, the subject of much conversation leading up to, during, and especially in the aftermath, of the recent Turkish elections. The new Foreign Minister, Abdullah Gul, is an "ex-islamist" whose wife wears the headscarf.

This particular issue received more media attention in the States than it probably deserved.

Here's a bit of coverage along with a photograph of what Mrs. Gul looks like in her headscarf:

"Mr Gul, whose wife wears a Muslim headscarf, has pledged to respect Turkey's secular institutions.

The headscarf is currently banned from public institutions in Turkey and Mr Gul has said wearing it is a matter of personal choice."

I have mixed feelings on the matter of the "Muslim headscarf," I have to admit. It's hardly a black and white issue, despite what it appears to be on the surface to most Westerners. And the West's aversion to it as a negative Islamist symbol seems to fan the flames of anti-Islamism on our part and anti-Americanism in the Middle East. Throughout my time here in Greece and Turkey, the criticism I've heard about the U.S. has been against Bush and against the war---and where do you NOT find that when traveling abroad? I felt sad today when the owner of the little place where we stopped to eat lunch was bemoaning the lack of American tourism in Bodrum, a city that's been dubbed the new St. Tropez by The New York Times.

It's majestic here, definitely too European for me to be able to comment too deeply on the Turkish culture at large. After all, I still went topless on the beach just as I've been doing all along in Greece. Somehow I don't think I'd get away with that even another forty miles inland. But it's hard not to love a place where some women go topless and other women mind their restaurant and store fronts in traditional garb and full head coverage. They say Turkey is where East meets West---perhaps a place where we can really witness tolerance in practice.

1 comment:

Rachel said...

Very interesting, and these travel updates are great. Here's a perspective on this issue from Nadine Dajani, a Lebanese-Canadian novelist.