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Anyone who espouses that the hijab is a mere head-covering and not a political symbol of radical Islam is talking turkey, or else not familiar with the case of Turkish lawyer Arparslan Arslan. Arslan may go down in history for helping change the course of the fiercely secular republic of Turkey, because of a seemingly innocuous kerchief favored by Muslim women for its modest appeal. We are the soldiers of Allah! Allah is great! Arslan shrieked on May 17, 2006 as he stormed the Second Bureau of the Turkish Council of State with a Glock handgun and began shooting at five judges in session to protest an 80-year-old hijab ban that was overturned last week by the Eurasian nations first pro-Islamic government since its inception. Under the guise of protecting female civil rights, mind you. The 100,000 Turks, who rallied in dissent by the mausoleum of their founding father, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, know better than most about the rashness of Muslims, and the vital need to separate religion and state in a country, whose history is pockmarked with 600-plus years of violent and controlling Ottoman rule. After seven months of wrangling with the lay constitution, and supported by the nationalist opposition party, the Turkish government has legalized the headwear for women in schools and universities. It is an unconstitutional move with the veiled aim to introduce moderation in a place of such contradictions that even women in bikinis can pray five times a day. That is the beauty of Turkey. The reversal is part of a blurry, broader constitutional package that lays the cornerstone for religious zeal, and one which prompted Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan to blithely comment, What we are trying to do is connected with the right to higher education only. Not so sir. Erdogan, whose own wife and daughters wear the hijab, is a disciple of the devout Nakshibendi sect (a large Islamic order hailing back to the 14th century, according to the Middle East Media Research Institute) and boasts a recorded legacy of pro-religious and anti-western sentiment. He was imprisoned for 10 months in the late 1990s for subversion and banned from political office for a speech he made in 1997, a by-law that he successfully overturned when his Justice and Development Party (AK) gained a parliamentary majority in 2002. In his incendiary speech, Erdogan who was charged with inciting, an army of jihad and using democracy to establish an evil order states for the public record: The mosques are our barracks, the domes are our helmets, the minarets are our swords and the faithful are our army. The disturbing pro-Islamist stance is self-evident and incestuous when one considers that the current president, Abdullah Gul, is an observant Muslim who resigned his own premiership to make way for Erdogans election in 2003, who then repaid him by supporting Guls successful presidential bid last fall. Or, that Iran has given them its blessing, which is a nail in the political coffin of any world leader. Most of all, Erdogan remains a master in denial and a mullah in the making. The self-styled champion of free speech sued political cartoonist Musa Kart and his secular newspaper, Cumhuriyet in 2005 for depicting him as a cat trapped in a ball of wool, pocketing a settlement of more than $3,000 in revenge for the perceived ridicule. At the time, the Turkish Cartoonists Association commented: Just as we thought those dark days were over, we have been confronted with this. Moreover, the prime minister continues to inflame human rights activists, who are concerned about his strongarming of Kurdish separatists in eastern Turkey and the political prosecution and imprisonment of some 60 Turkish scholars and members of the press. Yet, Erdogan wants his nation to be like others in Europe and join the European Union, despite branding it a Christian club. That entity is no fool and continues to hum-and-haw over the predominantly Muslim countrys application since it was first submitted on April 14, 1987 because of the potential for extremism in a part of the world that should remain a beacon of hope for all Muslims, and a mediator for others, for it is where the west meets the east. Like it or not, the hijab is a symbol of Islamic fanaticism. Sadly, a piece of clothing with no real basis in religion has been exploited by its supporters to represent and uphold all that is wrong about a culture and its beliefs. In Turkey, the people have recoiled from politicizing religion and even criminalized the use of ethnic or religious symbols for political purposes. The Turks are mindful of the danger that lurks behind their national personality, some of which is proudly touted on their Ministry of Tourisms official website. Beneath a section named Culture, there are the sub-divisions: Good Luck-Bad Luck, Spells, Evil Eye and Amulets Used for the Evil Eye, Fortune Telling, Vows, Prayers for Rain and Sin. Okay. Mustafa Kemal Ataturk should be turning in his grave. When he helped squash the Ottoman Empire and created the Republic of Turkey in 1923, he was driven by a sole purpose: To reverse Islams antiquated hold on modern-day Turkish society and move it from a theocratic to a secular state. He made sweeping reforms that abolished the Caliphate, emancipated women, introduced western-style forms of law, calendar and alphabet, and even challenged Islams ban on alcohol by encouraging the production of liquor and launching a state-owned spirits industry. The most visible of Ataturks laws, though, was a modern dress code for his people, legislated through the Hat Law of 1925, which banned the fez in favor of western-style toppers. Nine years later, he introduced the Law Relating to Prohibited Garments, which abolished backward religious clothing, such as the veil and turban, and advocated modern forms of dress. Although Ataturk favored western-style garb for women, he made no laws on the subject. His wife of only two years, Latife Usakligil, wore the hijab, but he was often photographed on public business with women who wore modern clothing. As for his position on the headscarf, the revered leader only conceded: This religious covering of women will not cause difficulty This simple style (of head covering) is not in conflict with the morals and manners of our society. That, however, was before Americas worst day and our contact with the barbaric and unyielding religious ideology that Ataturk labored long and hard to eradicate from Turkish politics. Hijab-wearers are the first to point out that the scarf affords them a purity, and allows them to be assessed by men more for their intellect than their beauty. That lends false esteem to the Muslim male, who clearly cannot keep his sexual frustrations in check long enough to appreciate the wisdom behind the famous lines of British poet John Keats (1795-1821), Beauty is truth, truth beauty. That is all ye know on Earth, and all ye need to know. E-mailA Britishers View at BritView@courierlife.net. 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©2008 Community Newspaper Group
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