Hijab News: Turkey Secularists Protest Hijab Lift
- Turkey Secularists Protest Hijab Lift
IslamOnline.net & News Agencies
Sat. Feb. 2, 2008
ANKARA Thousands of secularist Turks took to the
streets on Saturday, February 2, against government
plans to lift a decades-long ban on hijab on campus,
warning the lift could undermine Turkey's secularism.
"Turkey is secular and will remain secular," shouted
protesters as they waved Turkish flags and banners of
Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the emblematic leader who threw
religion out of public life as he rebuilt Turkey from
the ruins of the Ottoman Empire, Reuters reported.
The ruling Justice and Development Party and the
far-right Nationalist Action Party (MHP) opposition
party have agreed a constitutional amendment to allow
a compromise headscarf on campus.
Under the deal between the two parties, women and
girls at universities are permitted to cover their
heads by tying the headscarf in the traditional way
beneath the chin.
A majority of women use the traditional "basortusu" -
head cover in Turkish - that is more or less loosely
knotted under the chin for protection against the
elements or for modesty.
It can come off just as easily as it can be tied on
and raises no objections.
But the ban would remain on the wrap-round headscarf,
which secularists claim is associated with political
Islam, as well as face-veil.
Together, the AKP and the MHP easily have the
two-thirds parliamentary majority required to amend
The Turkish parliament is expected to approve the
amendment this week.
Opinion polls show that a majority the 70 million
population of Turkey, where some two thirds of women
wear hijab, back a relaxation of the headscarf ban.
Hijab, an obligatory code of dress in Islam, was
banned in public buildings, universities, schools and
government buildings in Muslim-majority Turkey shortly
after a 1980 military coup.
Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, whose wife and
daughters wear hijab, had promised before his first
electoral victory in 2002 that the "unfair ban will be
He said that hijab is a matter of religious and
Erdogan's daughters study abroad because of the
existing hijab ban.
The secularists' march follows a stern warning by
secular professors against allowing hijab-clad
students into classes.
"We are concerned that universities will plunge into a
chaotic environment and opposing groups will start
clashing with each other," Professor Mustafa Akaydin,
the chairman of the oversight board at Ankara's Middle
East Technical University, said in a statement.
He said the planned hijab ban will eradicate Turkey's
principle of secularism.
"The erosion of the universities' (principles of)
rationalism and scientific reason and Turkey's
transformation into a religious state would become
inevitable," he said.
Akaydin told reporters that some women academics were
already considering boycotting classes if the bill is
Secularist forces, including the army and senior
judges, 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 and
gradually result in lifting a ban on the headscarf in
public offices as well.
In 2005, the European Court of Human Rights ruled that
the headscarf ban in Turkish universities was not a
violation of fundamental freedoms and could be
necessary to protect Turkey's secular order against
When the Rules Run Up Against Faith
Prep Athlete Wearing Muslim Clothing Disqualified From
By Alan Goldenbach
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, January 16, 2008; Page A01
Juashaunna Kelly, a Theodore Roosevelt High School
senior who has the fastest mile and two-mile times of
any girls' runner in the District this winter, was
disqualified from Saturday's Montgomery Invitational
indoor track and field meet after officials said her
Muslim clothing violated national competition rules.
Kelly was wearing the same uniform she has worn for
the past three seasons while running for Theodore
Roosevelt's cross-country and track teams: a
custom-made, one-piece blue and orange unitard that
covers her head, arms, torso and legs. On top of the
unitard, Kelly wore the same orange and blue T-shirt
and shorts as her teammates.
The outfit allows her to compete while complying with
her Muslim faith, which forbids displaying any skin
other than her face and hands.
As one of the other heats was held, two meet officials
signaled to Kelly and asked her about her uniform.
Meet director Tom Rogers said Kelly's uniform violated
rules of the National Federation of State High School
Associations, which sanctioned the event, by not being
"a single-solid color and unadorned, except for a
single school name or insignia no more than 2 1/4
Rogers then told Kelly she was disqualified. Kelly
dropped to her knees and began sobbing. Kelly's
mother, Sarah, walked down from the bleachers at
Prince George's Sports & Learning Complex in
Landover and argued with Rogers, but left without
coming to an agreement to console her daughter.
"I saw that this isn't getting anywhere, and I wanted
to go see her," Sarah Kelly said.
Rogers said he made three public address announcements
prior to Kelly's disqualification requesting that
Roosevelt Coach Tony Bowden meet with him. Bowden said
he didn't hear any announcements.
Kelly has worn the same uniform for three years
without any questions, including the 800- and
1,600-meter races at last year's Montgomery
Invitational, at which Rogers also was the director.
"She ran in the same exact meet last year," Sarah
Kelly said. "There was nothing said. No one has ever
said anything to her."
Rogers said: "We run over 2,000 athletes in this meet.
Most likely an official missed her uniform [last year]
and a call wasn't made."
Juashaunna Kelly, who last week was named the 2007
Gatorade girls' cross-country runner of the year in
the District, had her uniform custom-made by a tailor
in Apple Valley, Calif., two years ago.
"It's not special," Kelly said. "It doesn't make me
She said she has been questioned about her uniform
before every meet in which she has competed, including
"It was the same as the other meets: They pulled me
aside and asked me why am I wearing this," she said.
"I said, 'It's because I'm a Muslim.' "
Rogers said he knew Kelly was wearing the uniform for
religious reasons and that he offered her several
options to conform to the rules of the meet while
still respecting her faith, including placing a plain
T-shirt over her unitard and then wearing her team
uniform over it.
"Every sport has uniform rules. It has nothing to do
with religious discrimination," Rogers said. "They
were provided with several options that would have
allowed her to run without taking off her head
Sarah Kelly said that was not the case. She said meet
referees made several demands of her daughter before
Rogers made his decision.
"First, they said she had to take her hood off," Sarah
Kelly said. "Then, they said she can't have anything
with logos displayed. Then, they said she had to turn
it inside out. When I told them that there weren't any
logos on it, they said she had to put a plain white
T-shirt on over it."
Bowden said: "It never started off about color [of her
uniform]. It started with her head wear.
"It wasn't a problem last year, and it's a problem
this year? Make me understand why."
Perhaps the most prominent case in the United States
of an athlete competing in Muslim attire occurred in
2004 at the University of South Florida. Women's
basketball player Andrea Armstrong said she was asked
by her coach to not wear her Muslim head scarf, long
sleeves and long pants on the court. The school said
it would appeal to the NCAA for a uniform waiver on
her behalf, but Armstrong quit the team before a
ruling was made.
Kelly, whose 1,600 time of 5 minutes 17.49 seconds and
3,200 time of 12:00.81 are the fastest of any District
girl, was hoping to run a time fast enough at the
Montgomery Invitational to qualify for the New Balance
Collegiate Invitational in New York on Feb. 8-9.
Bowden said Roosevelt has no other meets scheduled
that would allow her to qualify for the event, which
attracts dozens of college recruiters.
"What she needs to do is get some religious
documentation saying it's part of her heritage and
bring it with her to every meet," said Jim Vollmer,
the commissioner of track for Montgomery County public
Hip hijabs take off in Canadian winter
Fri Feb 1, 2008 4:41pm EST
By Julie Gordon
TORONTO (Reuters Life!) - As temperatures drop in
Canada this winter, Muslim women have a new - and
warmer - alternative to their traditional hijabs.
A young entrepreneur from Ottawa has designed
fashionable head covers, made from water-resistant
nylon and lined with fleece, which can be worn alone
or over a traditional hijab.
The toasty hijabs are the brainchild of Abeer
Al-Azzawi, a 24-year-old graduate student who got into
design because of a gap she saw in the clothing market
for young women.
"There's so much out there for girls who wear anything
else, but (not so much) for a 14-year-old who wears a
hijab, if she wants to go shopping on a Saturday
morning," said Al-Azzawi, who launched her online
enterprise, queendom-hijabs.com, about eight months
She now sells a line that includes a hardy nylon
winter hijab and a light, organic model she's dubbed
"So Soy". She has customers in North America, Europe
Al-Azzawi's focus is on making head coverings that
Muslim women in the West can feel comfortable wearing.
"I can make (hijabs) better for girls who want to wear
the hijab, but are scared," she said. "I can do that
"Response has been great. Some hijabs are out of
stock, because the minute they're made, they're out
There has been opposition to Al-Azzawi's designs. One
woman sent her an e-mail saying that her products were
not hijabs and that she should not be selling them as
A traditional hijab is a single piece of cloth looped
around the head, neck and chest, then tucked or
pinned. Al-Azzawi's are pulled over the head like a
balaclava or secured at the neck with velcro.
Many of her hijabs are brightly colored and stitched
with contrast piping.
"The hijab is supposed to be about modesty," said
Sharifa Khan of the University of Toronto Muslim
Students' Association. "It's really supposed to
deflect attention away from you."
Khan, who is not familiar with Al-Azzawi's designs,
wears a simple black hijab that covers her head, neck
and chest. She said it fits with the commandments of
But there is dispute as to what a hijab should be, and
even if it is necessary in this day and age, Khan
While the controversy hasn't hurt business on
Al-Azzawi's Web site, so far she hasn't had much luck
getting her designs on to store shelves in Canada.
"It's a very specific -- like a religion-specific
item," said Jennifer Sachs of accessory boutique Clic
Klak in Toronto's Queen West fashion district. "It's
not something everyone will buy."
(Reporting by Julie Gordon; Editing by Peter Galloway)
Erdogan moves to ease ban on wearing of Muslim scarf
By Gareth Jones in Ankara
Wednesday, 30 January 2008
Turkey's ruling AK party and opposition nationalists
are trying to ease a ban on women wearing Muslim
headscarves in universities.
Turkish secularists, who include army generals and
judges, have long opposed any easing of the ban,
saying it could harm the separation of state and
religion. The issue sparked early polls last year
after secular rallies and army warnings.
A proposal was sent to parliament yesterday with the
signatures of 348 deputies from the AK party and the
nationalist MHP, whose support is needed to push
through the reform.
"Our sole goal is to end the injustice against our
women students. We have no other aim. These changes
are limited to higher education," Prime Minister
Tayyip Erdogan said.
Mr Erdogan, who once served a short jail sentence for
reading a poem deemed too Islamist and whose wife and
daughters all wear the headscarf, has to tread warily
for fear of provoking the army. The staunchly secular
army, with public backing, ousted a government it saw
as too Islamist in 1997.
The proposal would only lift the ban for women who tie
the headscarf under their chin in the traditional
Turkish way. The increasingly popular wrap-round
version, seen as a symbol of political Islam, will
continue to be banned on campuses. Burqas which
cover the whole body and other forms of Islamic
dress will remain banned.
Turkey divided over headscarf ban decision
By Nicholas Birch in Istanbul
Monday, 28 January 2008
A small square of coloured material returns to the
centre of Turkey's political stage this week as the
government prepares to end the controversial headscarf
The ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), which
has its roots in political Islam, has been under
intense pressure from its conservative supporters to
abolish the ban since it first came to power in 2002.
And now it has struck a deal with a right-wing
nationalist party over the issue.
The two parties meet in the capital Ankara today to
fine-tune changes, and analysts expect the package to
be put to a parliamentary vote this week. Together,
they have enough votes to change the constitution.
In the past the move would have been vetoed by the
President, but the man in the high office is now
Abdullah Gul, the former AKP foreign minister, whose
selection last year sparked snap elections and a
simmering political crisis.
He appears certain to back the move. "Universities
should not be places of political controversy," he
said ahead of today's meeting. "Beliefs should be
practiced freely." Polls suggest most Turks agree with
For a vocal minority, though, the headscarf is direct
challenge to Western lifestyles, a symbol of ignorance
and backwardness. When 500,000 secularists marched in
Ankara and Istanbul in spring last year to protest
against the government's plans to elect Mr Gul
president, and the army issued coup threats on its
web-site, it was in part because his wife covers her
The ban is based on a ruling made by the
Constitutional Court in 1989 but has only been
vigorously enforced during the clamp-down on political
Islam that followed the 1997 military-led expulsion of
an Islamist party from power. It is widely seen as
"All citizens should have equal rights," said Ayla
Kerimoglu, the spokeswoman for Hazar, an
Istanbul-based group that provides educational
services to veiled women. "Instead, we're made to feel
like strangers in our own country."
Perhaps the most controversial aspect of the ban is
that it leaves considerable leeway for university
rectors. While a few turn a blind eye to covered
girls, some even ban students who try to sidestep the
ban by putting wigs on when they arrive on campus. In
2005, a university in the north-eastern city of
Erzurum sparked a furore when guards refused to allow
headscarf-wearing mothers to attend their children's
But supporters of the ban remain adamant. The planned
constitutional amendment is part of "a trend towards
religious dictatorship", said Sabih Kanadoglu, a
former supreme court chief prosecutor. The head of a
secularist opposition party, Deniz Baykal, predicted
"a major constitutional crisis".
The Prime Minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, has rejected
claims that his party was seeking to erode secular
traditions. "We have a society in which those who
cover up and those who do not both defend the
democratic and secular state," he said on Saturday.
"Hijabs for Life" in Canada
Sat. Jan. 26, 2008
CAIRO Spurred by the ban of hijab-clad girls from
taking part in sports competitions, Canadian Muslim
Abeer Al-Azzawi is helping her fellow Muslim peers
play, work and live with a new hijab fit for everyday
life, reported the Ottawa Citizen on Saturday, January
"You see stores that cater to all kinds of girls -- to
rocker girls, girlie girls, sporty girls -- but
there's nothing for the hijabi girls," said Azzawi.
"If I can do something to change that, I will."
The 24-year-old engineering grad has established an
online company for making hijabs that suit Muslim
Sub-named "Hijabs for Life", the headscarves are made
in bright colors and fashionable styles with
contrasting piping or panels.
The veils are made of the same breathable stretch
fabric as workout tops and pants with terrycloth over
the forehead to absorb sweat and pads the opening to
cushion the face.
Inside is a pocket to tuck a ponytail.
There are also hijabs made of soft fleece and striped
or plain woolly knits for icy winters.
"None of the hijabs have metal in them -- no metal
buttons or zippers, nothing to pull off or injure
anyone," said Azzawi.
There are also hijabs for yoga and another for
The issue of hijab wearing in sports has come to the
fore in recent months.
An 11-year-old Canadian girl was thrown out from a
national Judo tournament last November for wearing
The World Taekwondo Federation, the sport's largest
organization, ruled last May that women players would
not be allowed to cover their hair in its
In March, the International Football Association Board
(IFAB) said hijab is forbidden in soccer games.
The ruling came after a Canadian Muslim was expelled
from a soccer game for wearing a hijab.
One of Azzawi's favorite designs is made in the colors
of the Canadian team in white with red piping and a
maple leaf just above the temple.
"If a young girl were to wear this and she was
competing and they told her to take it off, she'd not
just be taking off a hijab but a symbol of Canada,"
Azzawi has received demands for her hijab from the
buyer and costume designer for Canadian sitcom Little
Mosque on the Prairie.
She also hopes that her hijab will also be worn on the
CBC-TV show's third season.
So far, Azzawi has sold 85 of her "hijabs for life" in
Ottawa, the United States, Britain, Belgium and
Azzawi, whose project was one of eight Ottawa-area
projects chosen to be funded by the Ontario
government's Summer Company program, is now aspiring
for expanding her project.
"That's a big, big market," she said.
She now envisions a quirky line of T-shirts with
sayings like "Islam's cool," and an aquatic line of
"modest" swim clothes following the "burkini" example.
The "burkini", a two-piece swimsuit incorporating a
head covering, a loose-fitting chemise and leggings,
was designed in Australia to allow women and girls who
wear traditional Islamic dress to go swimming.
Hijab has been thrust into the limelight since the
2004 French ban on the Muslim headscarf at public
schools and institutions.
Several European countries have since followed the
Hijab Bill in Italy Senate
By Mahmoud Reda, IOL Correspondent
Fri. Jan. 25, 2008
TORINO Italian Muslims have commended an endeavor by
an senior Senator to draft a law regulating the
wearing of hijab in the southern European country,
holding out the hope that the motion would not be
blocked by the right-wing opposition.
"Enacting a law regulating hijab wearing will be a
major achievement," Mohamed Al-Zayyat of the Islamic
Relief told IslamOnline.net.
"This law, if passed, will give a legal protection to
hijab against opposition by politicians, especially
Senator Silvana Amati, the rapporteur of the Senate's
constitutional affairs committee, has unveiled an
initiative to draft a law regulating hijab wearing in
The Italian Senator said that the motion, however,
would stipulate that the face must not be covered,
referring to niqab (face-veil).
"This proposed law will be a victory for freedoms in
Italy if it really comes into fruition," said Kassab
Boshti, deputy chairman of the Union of Italian
"Italy in doing so will be translating its cherished
values of freedom into concrete steps."
The Muslim leader said this motion comes to endorse
the tolerant stance taken by the state towards hijab.
"The government has been adroitly dealing with Muslims
and their beliefs."
Islam sees hijab as an obligatory code of dress, not a
religious symbol displaying ones affiliations.
Italy has a Muslim population of some 1.2 million,
including 20,000 reverts, according to unofficial
Muslim leaders, however, fear that the right-wing will
stand as a stumbling block to having the proposed law
see the light.
"The right-wing opposition will block any law
supporting hijab," said Zayyat.
Ibrahim Al-Amir, the chief editor of Akhbar Al-Shoub
daily, echoed similar fears.
"The bill is unlikely to turn into a law because of
the right-wing opposition," he told IOL.
The center-right opposition led by former premier
Silvio Berlusconi has 156 seats in the Senate against
158 for the center-left coalition.
The proposed bill must get 160 votes to become law.
The center-left government of Prime Minister Romano
Prodi collapsed on Thursday after losing a vote of
confidence in the Senate.
Italian President Giorgio Napolitano was to start
crisis talks on Friday to rescue the country from
political limbo after Prodi's resignation.
Napolitano will hold meetings until next Tuesday,
January 29, aimed at forging consensus for forming an
interim government instead of calling early elections.
The center-right opposition is pressing for snap
elections that opinion polls suggest will return
Berlusconi to power.
Prodi's center-left government has opposed attempts by
right-wingers to ban hijab in Italy.
Two bills on banning hijab have been stalled in
One bill called for banning Muslim girls under 16 from
wearing hijab in schools while the other suggested
amending the 1975 anti-terror law which bans clothes
that conceal people's identity in public places,
Hijab has been thrust into the limelight since the
2004 French ban on the Muslim headscarf at public
schools and institutions.
Several European countries have since followed the