Gul, Erdogan for Lifting Hijab Ban

CAIRO — Newly-elected Turkish President Abdullah Gul and Premier Recep Tayyip Erdogan have thrown their weights behind abolishing hijab ban in universities as a part of the undergoing overhaul of the constitution.

"It is much better for (veiled women) to go to university than to stay home and be isolated from social life," President Gul told Milliyet daily on Wednesday, September 19.

He said that lifting the ban would enhance the freedoms of the Turkish people.

"We have to see the issue from the point of individual freedoms and as a result of modernity."

In an interview with Britain's Financial Times published Wednesday, Erdogan stuck a similar note, asserting that the ban deprives girls from their basic right of studying in universities.

"The right to higher education cannot be restricted because of what a girl wears.

"There is no such problem in western societies but there is a problem in Turkey and I believe it is the first duty of those in politics to solve this problem."

The commission drafting the new constitution has decided to refer the issue of whether to lift the hijab ban or not to Erdogan after failing to reach a consensus.

The draft constitution will be discussed by the ruling Justice and Development (AK) leadership on Wednesday and presented to the public next week.

Hijab has been banned in public buildings, universities, schools and government buildings in Muslim-majority Turkey since 1982.

Secularists see hijab, an obligatory code of dress under Islam, as a threat to the fiercely-guarded secular system entrenched by Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, who throw religion out of public life as he rebuilt Turkey from the ruins of the Ottoman Empire.

Not New

Gul and Erdogan refuted claims that girls who do not wear hijab may come under social pressure if the ban is lifted.

"We are people who have lived side by side in peace....There can be both girls who cover up and who do not in the same family," said Gul.

"This is our social structure and we have lived like that for years."

Erdogan noted that allowing hijab in campuses would be nothing new.

"What we are trying to achieve is not a new process.

"In Turkey, it was possible to go to university while wearing the headscarf, and later you could not. So it is not a new issue."

The prime minister promised a wide-ranging debate on the new draft constitution, noting that the two constitutions were drafted by the military in 1960 and 1980.

"This constitution is going to point Turkey in a certain direction and it is our duty to debate it and consult with people in the widest possible sense," he said.

The current constitution is a legacy of the 1980 military coup.

It has been amended several times but its many critics say a fundamental overhaul is needed to stamp out its authoritarian spirit and make it fully democratic.

"We want a constitution that is going to provide and protect a state that is a democratic, secular, social state of law," said Erdogan.

Source: Islam Online

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