Hijab News: Swiss minister sparks veil outcry
- Swiss minister sparks veil outcry
Thursday, 20 March 2008
Swiss Foreign Minister Micheline Calmy-Rey has been
widely criticised for donning a white headscarf to
meet Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
Well-known for her stand on women's rights, she has
provoked headlines such as "Just like a submissive
Socialist MP Maria Roth-Bernasconi said it was
irritating that she had angered feminists in Iran.
Ms Calmy-Rey said she was observing protocol. "When
you are a guest you respect local customs," she said.
Social Democrat MP Liliane Maury Pasquier accepted
that customs had to be observed.
But she was quoted by one newspaper complaining that
the minister should have shown solidarity with "the
women who fight against wearing the headscarf".
The minister also prompted controversy by signing a
multi-billion dollar natural gas deal. The United
States had complained that Switzerland was sending the
wrong message when Tehran was subject to UN sanctions.
Ms Calmy-Rey insisted the deal between Swiss company
EGL and the National Iranian Gas Export company did
not violate sanctions.
Swiss daily Le Matin said on Wednesday it was shocked
that Switzerland's "icon of a liberated woman" had
been transformed into an image of one who was
Its tone changed on Thursday, however, by
acknowledging that the foreign minister had not really
had much choice.
A source told the paper that, without wearing a
headscarf, she probably would not have been able to
have her meetings with the Iranian leadership.
Turkey Relaxes Hijab Ban
IslamOnline.net & News Agencies
Sat. Feb. 9, 2008
ANKARA Turkey's parliament on Saturday, February 9,
overwhelmingly voted to relax a decades-long ban on
hijab on campus against a backdrop of a mass rally by
secularists protesting the landmark move.
"The proposal to change the constitution has been
approved," parliament speaker Koksal Toptan told
lawmakers after the vote, reported Reuters.
Some 411 lawmakers of the 550-seat parliament voted
'yes' for a proposal tabled by the ruling Justice and
Development Party (AKP) to amend the Constitution to
relax the ban.
The new legislation, which was backed by the
opposition Nationalist Action Party (MHP) after a
compromise deal with the AKP, only needed 367 votes to
The amendment will read that the state will treat
everyone equally when it provides services such as
university courses and that no one can be barred from
education for reasons not clearly laid down by law, an
allusion to hijab-clad students.
"I hope this will be for the best for Turkey and hope
it is done in a spirit of tolerance and
reconciliation," said Toptan.
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.
Under a compromise deal between AKP and MHP, 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.
The amendment now needs to be approved by President
Abdullah Gul, a former AKP member.
The vote came as tens of thousands of secularists took
anew to the streets to protest the parliamentary vote,
reported Agence France-Presse (AFP).
"Turkey is secular and will remain secular," shouted
the protestors, who packed a square in downtown
Ankara, filling the main artery running through the
heart of the city.
Television reports said there were as many as 200,000
people at the demonstration, dubbed the "Rally for
Secularism and Independence".
A majority of the demonstrators, who were waving the
red and white star and crescent flag of Turkey and
bearing portraits of modern Turkey's founder Mustafa
Kemal Ataturk, were women.
Some were wearing headbands that read "We are
following your oath" along with pictures of Ataturk.
"Tayyip, take your headscarf and stuff it," shouted
the demonstrators, referring to Prime Minister Recep
Tayyip Erdogan, whose wife and daughters wear hijab.
"What is being done today in parliament is to
eliminate the republican regime and replace it with
bigotry. They want to destroy the secular democratic
republic," Gokhan Gunaydin, from the organizing
committee, told the crowd.
Secularist forces, including the army and senior
judges, see the headscarf as a symbol of defiance
against Turkey's fiercely guarded secular system.
Secularist academics have warned that lifting the ban
on headscarves would lead to clashes on campuses and a
boycott of classes by female academics.
The AKP says it is fully committed to secularism and
has given assurances that the headscarf reform will
only be extended to university students.