Scarf rule posed threat to secular system
Hijab-wearers have complained of being expelled from classes
ISTANBUL: Turkey’s highest court on Thursday overturned a controversial law allowing women to wear the headscarf (hijab) at university, dealing a blow to the country’s Islamist-leaning government and its chances of survival.
In a decision with significant implications for Turkey’s future, the constitutional court upheld an appeal from opposition parties that the law — passed by Parliament in February — posed a threat to its secular system.
The headscarf issue has become one of the most highly charged in Turkish politics, with the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) seeing it as a question of religious freedom, while opponents portray it as a potential gateway to a more Islamic so
Hijab-wearers have complained of being expelled from classes by professors, while others have worn wigs to get around the ban.
The ruling was a setback for the AKP, which is embroiled in a separate case to outlaw the party and ban its officials from politics for alleged anti-secular activity. “This is the harshest decision the court could have reached,” said Soli Ozel, an analyst at Bilgi University. “It gives us a clear sense of how the court is going to vote on the closure case.”
Banning the party could plunge Turkey’s political system into turmoil, while further jeopardising its already fraught attempt to join the European Union. European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso has warned that the country’s application could be frozen if the AKP is outlawed.
The AKP has won many European officials by espousing a democratising agenda seen as key to Turkey’s E.U. membership. — © Guardian Newspapers Limited, 2008