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Turkish lawmakers remove head scarf ban

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  • Greg Cannon
    http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20080207/ap_on_re_mi_ea/turkey_head_scarf_ban;_ylt=Avk8kRFAohsjFouzL0sQD_es0NUE Turkish lawmakers remove head scarf ban By SUZAN
    Message 1 of 1 , Feb 6, 2008

      Turkish lawmakers remove head scarf ban

      By SUZAN FRASER, Associated Press Writer 39 minutes

      ANKARA, Turkey - Lawmakers voted early Thursday to
      approve a constitutional amendment allowing female
      students to enter universities wearing Islamic head
      scarves — a move some Turks see as a threat to the
      traditional separation of church and state.

      Lawmakers voted 401-110 in a preliminary vote in favor
      of the government's proposed amendment to the secular
      constitution. The government has defended its plan as
      a reform needed to give its citizens religious liberty
      and bring Turkey in line with European Union human
      rights guidelines.

      A second and final round of voting was slated for

      The government has the backing of a nationalist
      opposition party and together they have more than the
      two-thirds majority in the 550-seat assembly required
      to make the change.

      The head scarf issue is a source of tension in Turkey
      and has divided the population among those who
      consider the ban an affront to the religious freedoms
      of pious Muslims and those who fear removing the ban
      would erode Turkey's secular education system.

      The vast majority of Turkey's 70 million people are
      Muslim, but they are divided over the role of Islam in
      politics and daily life.

      Secularists regard the head covering as a political
      statement and argue it has no place in schools. They
      also fear that lifting the ban at universities would
      pressure all female students to cover themselves up.

      On Wednesday, about 200 people gathered near the
      parliament building to protest the government's
      proposal as lawmakers convened. Hundreds of riot
      police, reinforced by armored vehicles, set up
      barricades to prevent them from marching to

      "We won't allow the head scarf!" and "Down with the
      AKP!" the group chanted, referring to the acronym of
      the ruling party.

      More than 125,000 people, mostly women, marched in
      Ankara over the weekend to denounce plans to lift the
      ban. University deans from dozens of private and state
      universities also gathered in the capital last week to
      show their opposition.

      The issue also symbolizes the divide between the
      Islamic-oriented government and the country's military
      backed secular establishment.

      The military, however, has not played a prominent role
      in the debate, although generals have periodically
      spoken up against what they view as moves to undermine
      secular principles introduced by the national founder,
      Mustafa Kemal Ataturk.

      Burhan Kuzu, a ruling party legislator denied
      secularism was being weakened. "If the proposed
      changes amount to what they say they amount to, I
      would be the first one to oppose them," he said.

      To ease concerns, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip
      Erdogan's party has said that a loosening of the ban
      would be limited to universities, and would not be
      expanded to high schools or public offices.
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