Signs and signifiers of sea-change: teaparties and turbans

28 comments

in American culture,community,culture,global niche,history,home,identity,multicultural,society,taboo,women

Wavering flag by V.Guneyli

By VIRGINIA GUNEYLI

We have created our own culture, my husband and I. Horse shoes and evil-eye protectors above our doors, we listen to Hande Yener and Johnny Cash, eat kebap on Fridays and fried chicken on Sundays, and mix our conversation into Turklish, a hybrid language only we and our young son understand.

Our bi-cultural existence is beautiful, but it can be lonely here in St. Louis. We’re horrified by local demonstrators with signs that say things like, “I’m More Afraid of Obama than Osama” and “Obama, Go Back to Kenya.” During a recent trip to visit family in Istanbul we looked closely for a more accepting place.

To get a view of the European coastline and the Bosphorus Strait that divides the city, we headed to Çamlıça Tepesi on the Asian side of town. Instead, I got an eyeful of hordes of Turkish women covered, not in the traditional way of village women, but in the Arabic niqab, or in what Turks call a “turban” and a raincoat.

Why would they do this in modern Turkey, where covering was not only unusual in the past, but often forbidden by an adamantly secular government? To some, the turban is a sign of piousness, to others, it is a political statement, a status symbol and an acceptance of men’s jealousy.

What the turban represents for Turkey reminds me of the xenophobic protest signs in America’s ‘heartland’. A conservative sea-change.

What do the new signs in your neighborhood point to?

+++++
Virginia Guneyli teaches post-colonial literature at a community college in St. Charles, Missouri, where she lives with her husband and son. She’s working on a novel based on her experiences as an expatriate in Mexico City.
+++++

  • http://www.facebook.com/SonsOfTheGreatSatan Anthony Roberts

    Aloha Virigina,
    Expat, third culture kid, whatever you want to call me. I spent eight years in the middle east as a child and teenager, five years in Saudi Arabia then three years in Tehran, Iran up until a taxi driver asked me, “The Shah has left, why have not you?” That was a very good question and soon answered itself. I’ve recently e-pubbed a historical fiction novel inspired by my time in Iran, SONS OF THE GREAT SATAN. (shameless plug, all apologies)

    I came back to the States in late ’78 feeling like the brother from another planet. The Hostage Crisis whipped into high gear not long after and I watched Americans react. I had no love for the Ayatollah – far from it – but I knew many Iranians who loathed him more than I did. My countrymen didn’t see the difference. The Ayatollah defined them all, arab and persian alike down to every last man, woman and child. How can you possibly explain to your countrymen that you loved Iran, even when you where driven from the country? The emotions were confusing to say the least.

    When you mentioned Tea Parties and Turbans it reminded me of being in East Texas and watching the state sweep red under Reagan. Those that were so stridently anti-arab and anti-Iranian reminded me more of the mullahs I’d left behind that what I thought Americans should be. I was living in a small town in East Texas at the time that was going through it’s own cultural crisis – a Wet/Dry election. Get rid of that demon rum, giggly water, devil’s brew. One of my co-workers at the University library was trying to sway me to the ‘good side’ with the argument that ‘When there’s sinnin’ goin’ on it’s everybody’s business.’ I looked at this woman and saw the stern face of the Ayatollah. Sea change indeed.

    Glad I found your site and will be checking in,

    Aloha, Happy Trails, Masalama and Khodahafez!
    Anthony

  • Pingback: Most affecting: 1 year later « expat+HAREM, the global niche

  • Pingback: Defining moments: October newsletter « expat+HAREM, the global niche

  • Feride

    Hi everyone ..
    I am 21-year-old girl who with headscarf on.And i just wanna tell something about me.I was not used to wear headscarf.And in my family noone does..(except my mom she wears in traditional way)..My father was a comunist-not now-.But not a islamic person now too.
    You know in Turkey going a good university is
    really hard for everyone coz our bad elemination system.I took the exam in 2007(when I wasnt full 18).There was about 1.8milyon people in exam. I was in 10.000 .
    I started to go the uni.Then we took an exam again in uni.We were 125 people.and I was 7th.Everything was going well.I was staying in a student hostel where was full with college girl and noone of them was with headscarf on.Almost everygirl drinked alcohol.
    Then I was thinking about my spirutual life.I was going a good uni.Friends thought about me that I was smart, cute person.
    but I felt something was missing about my life. I decided to wear headscarf.That was only my choice.Some of girls didnt understand this,someone thought this was my personal choice.
    Then at a weekend I went to home,my family discussed with me.They didnt let me do this.They said “if u wear this,u arent our daughter anymore.I said “I want to wear it!” Dad want to hit me.I runned my room and locked the door.
    My mom was shouting at balcoony “we dont want like this girl, she wants to be with headscarf on”.Then I leave home to go to school.When I came the door of school ,they told me I couldnt go to school with my headscarf.
    I really didnt think about this situation.I was going .. but now I cant .. was that my mind change? .. or was my outfit change? .. and .. I cant go to my school still. If everything happened in normal way,I would be in the 3th class.
    So I really cant understand this. Why I cant go to my school about my wearing? I think we are like rainbow .. We must respect each colour.I have few friends with headscarf on,and a lot with not.Everyone goes to uni how they want.. Is that true equilavance for people?..

    If you wanna ask something,I can try to answer .. Thanks a lot ..

  • http://www.bazaarbayar.blogspot.com Catherine Bayar

    Thanks for the links, Anastasia. These neighborhood frictions are increasing in Beyoglu as late night venues open where only residences once were. But this is the first violence I’ve heard of. “A mob of young men” – having had our bar attacked by similar in Selcuk (more nationalists who did not like Kurds and Americans) – I’ll be curious to see if this was about the open drinking or the anti-Kemalist exhibits.

  • http://www.expatharem.com/identity-messages/ Anastasia

    This isn’t my ‘neighborhood’ per se, but something went down last night in the old European quarter of Istanbul which certainly points to new frictions. Art gallery openings attacked by mob.

    • http://allthingsguneyli.blogspot.com/ Virginia

      I learned much from the comments after both links – thank you. Interesting comment about how a group allegedly used violence to stop what they perceived as immorality in their midst. Ironic.

  • http://www.skaiangates.com Yazarc

    Extremism moving towards the norm is a very worrying, no matter what culture you live in. Headscarves and turbans are as Acan says a highly nuanced issue with multiple complications on either side. In a country where ‘neighbourhood pressure’ is a major control on behaviour, wearing the turban or not can become a weapon to control others, and that aspect is what worries me most.However the turban issue is a distraction from more pressing issues such as the complete failure of the examination system, the worryingly low standards in some universities, the court cases that seem very conveniently to involve a range of people whose only commonality is being outspoken against the current government, the cronyism rife throughout the government and public service, an opposition party proposing a boycott of schools as a means of protest, the level of unemployment and lack of industry and production. Seen in this light, the removal of cheerleaders from an international basketball competition and the headscarf seem of less significance. Somehow they seem to gain far more media attention though…

    • http://allthingsguneyli.blogspot.com/ Virginia

      Yazarc,
      Thank you for your comment. From what I have observed of the world, in societies where women are mandated or pressured to wear the hijab, all the other problems you mentioned — corruption in the legal system, oppression, cronyism, economic regression, moral regulation of the masses — followed soon thereafter. To lift the ban is to take a step toward the legal institution of the hijab and other Islamic laws in Turkey. I really wouldn’t care how women choose to dress if I didn’t think it would end up leading to other government-sanctioned/mandated enforcements of Sharia law. Is Turkey going to be a plural society or an Islamic society? If Turks want a plural society, it is necessary to ensure that the laws remain secular. I can’t order a glass of wine at many of the restaurants in Istanbul, despite the fact that I am not a Muslim. Yes, that pales in comparison to the problems we face with terrorism, unemployment, and poverty; however, it is yet another troubling sign that the country is no longer set up for a diverse population — it is accommodating towards Muslims only. The hijab is one complex piece of a mosaic of issues related to this proverbial question: Can Islam and Democracy be reconciled?
      Virginia

      • Catherine Bayar

        Great post Virginia. I’m curious to know in what neighborhoods in Istanbul you were not served alcohol? Perhaps in our Sultanahmet to Taksim bubble, we’ve missed hearing about this. When we applied for a liquor license for our wine and waterpipe bar in Selcuk, right after the AK Party came to power, we were delayed because they were trying to ban any alcohol within 50 meters of a mosque…which of course was the entire town. There was such pressure from business owners about lost revenues that the ban did not work. But like wet states and dry states in the US, the same could happen here if that’s what the people want. Somehow though, a nationwide ban on alcohol is something unimaginable here – tourism is too important!

        • Bulent Guneyli

          The restaurant which Virginia refers to is called “Güzelcehisar Cafe&Restaurant”. It is on the Asian side of Bosphorus, on the outskirts of Fatih Sultan Mehmet bridge, right above Anadolu Hisari. I am not sure if I can insert links to my comments here but the web site address of the restaurant is : http://www.guzelcehisar.com/güzelcehisar.htm. It is a nice restaurant which offers exquisite views, friendly service, and delicious food but no alchocol!

          • http://allthingsguneyli.blogspot.com/ Virginia

            Thanks, canim. Your memory is better than mine. :)

          • http://www.expatharem.com/identity-messages/ Anastasia

            Hi Bulent. A nice restaurant with exquisite views and no alcohol…see, here’s the confusion. Why should it have alcohol? Just because it’s nice, and has good views? Did it used to have alcohol and now it doesn’t (which would point to one kind of change, in management or municipal pressures) or is the shock that an upscale restaurant adheres to a policy that seems unsecular (which would point to a different kind of change, one taking place in the eye of the beholder)?

            • Anonymous

              Hi Anastasia,Not every restaurant need to serve alcohol as you pointed out but I would expect to have a glass of raki with fish or red wine with kebap when I am dining at a restaurant of this caliber. It is just a natural expectation from a typical customer. I also don’t understand why the restaurant owner would not want to sell alcohol. I don’t know whether this was his personal decision or he lost his liquor permit because the municipality where the restaurant is located banned alcohol sale at all restaurants around that neighborhood. Nevertheless, I think this restaurant is a proper symbolic example of how Turkey is transforming because the very same restaurant used to sell alcohol just two years ago!

        • http://allthingsguneyli.blogspot.com/ Virginia

          Thanks, Catherine. Wine wasn’t on the menu at a restaurant in Otagtepe. The restaurant is called something like Guzeldeniz — I don’t think the name is correct; I can’t remember. Beautiful view, and the kebab was amazing. Also, if I’m not mistaken none of municipality-owned restaurants or facilities offered wine. I know most people want coffee at Pierre Loti, but I wanted a glass of wine.

      • http://www.skaiangates.com Yazarc

        I think these problems are present in virtually all cultures, the safeguards against them and extent to which they are tolerated changes though. Is that related to Sharia law? I don’t think so, Ireland certainly ticks a few of the problem boxes and is in no danger of Sharia enforcement. Interestingly though you could say that Ireland in the 40′s and 50′s was ruled by the Catholic church and is still recovering from that, perhaps any religiously-mandated rule leads to these kinds of problems?
        In any case I think leaving the headscarf issue to one side and tackling these problems will lead to greater respect throughout society for each other and especially for women and minorities. Once that is ingrained religious rule becomes extremely unattractive. I see too many working independent women in this society for Sharia to be enforced. The question of how to motivate these women to step up to the plate in politics is another puzzler though.
        Thank you for writing such an intriguing piece and motivating such a great discussion!

        • http://allthingsguneyli.blogspot.com/ Virginia

          Thank you, Yazarc. Yes, maybe it partly a holdover of past religious rule – the Catholic Church in Ireland, the Ottoman Empire in Turkey. That is an insightful correlation. I just want to say that I do not see head covering in Turkey as a problem — I see it as a sign of a problem, just as I see protest signs that say things like “Obama Go Back to Kenya” as a sign of a problem. I’m not even a huge fan of his, but the sentiment behind a sign that tags him as an outsider, not American enough, just ticks me off. The protests, themselves, are not a problem. What is written on those signs is indicative of a large and powerful movement that designs to destroy social programs, propagate war, institute skewed religious dogma into government policy, fortify walls on our border with Mexico, search and seize from individuals based on their race, and alienate international communities. I did not devise an exploration of the head covering as an attempt to avoid tackling the disturbing social and economic trends in either Turkey or the United States. My article was only meant to probe for signs of these problems – and I chose the increasing number of young women who choose to cover in untraditional ways as one of those signs.

          I definitely see your point, though, and I am sorry my article didn’t indicate well enough that my focus wasn’t on the coverings and protests as anything other than indicators of something larger.I have also really appreciated a polite but provocative venue to think through and explore these issues, and I am so glad for your comments.

      • Feride

        I really dont understand this.How will it be able?One day Tayyip Erdoğan will say since that day,this country will manage by Sharia.And then will it happen? Does it look possible to you? Nobody wont say anything?Everybody will accept? For example in Akp Will Özlem TÜRKÖNE accept the Sharia? This is really impossible.In this country inspite of 411 vote,headscarf ban wasnt lifted.Coz the court didnt let.Tomorrow court will be in silent against the Sharia?:S
        Except all of these .. Do you really think many people in this country want Sharia?.. You can look at the polls on net ..
        People who want Sharia are less than people who want Communism ..
        And you r women,too.U r worry about women in Sharia.Coz they cant go to school.They cant work.I want to go to school and work .. But I cant.. Isn’t that my right?..

        • http://allthingsguneyli.blogspot.com/ Virginia

          Yes, I believe Sharia law in Turkey is possible; however, I do not believe it is likely in the near future. I hope it never comes to be. I base my assertions on facts – according to recent Gallup Poll findings ( http://www.muslimwestfacts.com/mwf/109093/Many-Turks-Iranians-Egyptians-Link-Sharia-Justice.aspx) on Turks’ attitude toward Sharia law, this type of governance is not as unpopular as you think it is.You assert that I am on a slippery slope in my concerns over the head covering and eventual Sharia law. You said, “U r worry about women in Sharia.Coz they cant go to school.They cant work.I want to go to school and work .” You are wrong, actually. Iranian women live under Sharia law, and Iranian universities are graduating more women than ever (see http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/5359672.stm). More women attended college after Iran came under Sharia law because more parents felt comfortable letting their girls leave home to go to Islamic schools than they did before Islamic law. Iranian women students have to cover up – it is not an option – and those who do not live at home while going to school live in regulated dormitories, where non-Muslim behavior can result in punishment or expulsion. The coursework is approved by the religious clerics of the country, so secular ideas or challenges to the accepted system are not permitted.With all of that said, many of the other commentators pointed out, the turban trend is a lesser concerning issue than other serious issues in Turkey – it is only a sign of the times. Moreover, it is one of the many signs I see that suggest that someday, Sharia law may replace current law in Turkey. Other warning signs include: 1) violence against those who drink alcohol or commit otherwise “immoral” acts, such as the recent incident in Istanbul mentioned in a previous post (http://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/n.php?n=two-art-galleries-came-under-attack-in-istanbul-2010-09-22), 2) the number of restaurants and cafes that have voluntarily chosen not to serve alcohol to non-Muslims in the European Culture Capital, 3) the attempts to criminalize adultery, 4) official wiretapping, 5) the intimidation of the liberal media, 6) the federal government’s new power over the courts, and 7) the willingness of the masses to accept all of the aforementioned changes for economic gain and/or acceptance into the European Union.You seem so desirous of learning, and I respect you for that; however, you indicated that you are uncomfortable with the diverse lifestyles and beliefs of mainstream society. You said you were living in dormitories “full with college girl and noone of them was with headscarf on [where] Almost everygirl drinked alcohol.” By choosing to cover in this way, you have chosen a path different than the one your parents had hoped for you, and you have gone against the culture with which you were raised to do so. After all, the hijab is not mandated, according to the Koran ( http://www.quran-islam.org/articles/part_3/the_burqa_%28P1357%29.html). Your decision is at the heart of the phenomenon that so bothers me – that young women should choose, en masse, to shut themselves away from society, through wearing the hijab and voluntary sequestering. This trend does not bode well for a progressive, accepting, diverse society. The ban is only an attempt to slow this trend – I support any effort to do so. References“Gallup Poll Findings.” http://www.muslimwestfacts.com/mwf/109093/Many-Turks-Iranians-Egyptians-Link-Sharia-Justice.aspx“Compulsion and the Hijab.” http://www.quran-islam.org/articles/part_3/the_burqa_%28P1357%29.html“Hijab is Not Required in Islam.” http://www.islamfortoday.com/syed01.htm“Education for Women in Iran.” http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/5359672.stm“Referendum in Turkey.” http://news.yahoo.com/s/csm/20100910/cm_csm/325075http://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/n.php?n=two-art-galleries-came-under-attack-in-istanbul-2010-09-22“Verses from the Quran about the Hijab.” http://www.themodernreligion.com/women/hijab-quran.htm

          • Catherine Bayar

            Virginia, I too am very concerned that an intelligent young woman like Feride would chose to cover, knowing full well that she’d not be allowed to attend university here if she did so. Would it so horrible to allow women like her to attend so they can get a more liberal education, instead of forcing them into those Islamic schools as their only choice in Turkey, or having them leave the country to attend university in the places like the US, where they are free to cover?

            Lumping Turkey in with other Muslim countries does not give a clear picture, I think. The same Gallup site you noted also had a long but very interesting article “Headscarves and Secularism” about just Turkey. In the article, “71% of women aged 45 and older say they cover their heads in public, versus 40% of those aged 30 to 44 and 29% of those aged 15 to 29. Additionally, women with a primary school education or less (74%) are more than twice as likely as those with a high school or training school education (27%) to say they cover their heads. The sample size of Turkish women with a university education is too small to report.”

            Shouldn’t the goal here be to educate as many women as possible, covered or not, since younger women are already wearing the scarf less than their elders, and education clearly has an effect on who wears a scarf? The article concludes:

            “Overall, the poll findings reveal that majorities of Turks surveyed support freedom of speech and religion. The importance of religion for most Turks combined with their rejection of Sharia as the only source of legislation brings some important nuance to the secular-religious debate. In other words, Turks see religious and democratic values as compatible. Furthermore, Turks’ attitudes toward the associations with the headscarf suggest that the decision to wear a headscarf is a personal one, based in faith and not in ideology.”

            http://www.gallup.com/poll/104257/Headscarves-Secularism-Voices-From-Turkish-Women.aspx

          • Catherine Bayar

            Virginia, I too am very concerned that an intelligent young woman like Feride would chose to cover, knowing full well that she’d not be allowed to attend university here if she did so. Would it so horrible to allow women like her to attend so they can get a more liberal education, instead of forcing them into those Islamic schools as their only choice in Turkey, or having them leave the country to attend university in the places like the US, where they are free to cover?

            Lumping Turkey in with other Muslim countries does not give a clear picture, I think. The same Gallup site you noted also had a long but very interesting article “Headscarves and Secularism” about just Turkey. In the article, “71% of women aged 45 and older say they cover their heads in public, versus 40% of those aged 30 to 44 and 29% of those aged 15 to 29. Additionally, women with a primary school education or less (74%) are more than twice as likely as those with a high school or training school education (27%) to say they cover their heads. The sample size of Turkish women with a university education is too small to report.”

            Shouldn’t the goal here be to educate as many women as possible, covered or not, since younger women are already wearing the scarf less than their elders, and education clearly has an effect on who wears a scarf? The article concludes:

            “Overall, the poll findings reveal that majorities of Turks surveyed support freedom of speech and religion. The importance of religion for most Turks combined with their rejection of Sharia as the only source of legislation brings some important nuance to the secular-religious debate. In other words, Turks see religious and democratic values as compatible. Furthermore, Turks’ attitudes toward the associations with the headscarf suggest that the decision to wear a headscarf is a personal one, based in faith and not in ideology.”

            http://www.gallup.com/poll/104257/Headscarves-Secularism-Voices-From-Turkish-Women.aspx

    • http://www.expatharem.com/identity-messages/ Anastasia

      Oh yeah. These are not un-real issues, but they loom larger as other more pressing concerns are sublimated (by the powers that be, people in denial?): for instance, the economic crisis in America and elsewhere.

      The International Monetary Fund finds in the past three years 30 million more people became unemployed worldwide. When people are freaking out, they lash out. And as this columnist in San Francisco writes, “we need our demons”.

      Of course what we really need is to get people working and feeling empowered and able to take care of themselves.

      As for signs in my neighborhood: more Arab tourists in full abaya-mode at the mall. Illegal housing torn down for ultra-expensive settlements. What do they point to? Growth. New alliances.

    • Catherine Bayar

      I completely agree, Yazarc. Yes, neighborhood/pier/family pressure about covering is worrisome. However, all the issues you mentioned above are grave and concern me more than whether or not a woman covers. After 12 years living here, with very conservative relatives and business partners, I’ve had many conversations about why women cover. However, no one has ever suggested I do, though they don’t like that my husband and I drink alcohol. But neither do my Mormon relatives in the US.

      I don’t see the headscarf issue as a slippery slope to Sharia here. To me that’s just as extreme as the fear of the far right in the US that Obama is taking the country down the road to Socialism. I agree with Anastasia – these issues are a smokescreen to distract from bigger crises.

      Maybe I’m dreaming, but I think Islam and Democracy are compatible. Real Democracy means listening to the majority, whether the rest of us like it or not. Turkey is the world’s best place to test this now, so let’s see what happens going forward.

      Frankly, I’m more concerned about the Tea Party’s influence on the US mid-term elections in November. There’s a case of a minority with a disproportionate voice. Jon Stewart has proposed a “Rally to restore sanity”. When the only rational public figures are comedians, I’m REALLY fearful what’s going to happen.

  • Acan

    The headscarf issue is an extremely nuanced and complicated subject. For many years, women who have worn the headscarf have been kept on the sidelines or in the shadows. Currently, they are feeling empowered and displaying that it is not only peasants or village women who choose to cover their hair. My mother has worn a headscarf for the past 50 years, not for any political reason, but because she chooses to. My wife and sisters choose not to. I don’t think it makes sense to look down upon anyone for their mode of dress or covering. I believe there is a fear amongst some secular women that if women who wear headscarves are allowed to enter universities or cover up in civil servant jobs, that they too will eventually have to cover up. It will be interesting to see how this issue will be resolved with the newly emboldened AkParty following the Referendum vote.

    • http://allthingsguneyli.blogspot.com/ Virginia

      Acan, Thank you so much for your thoughtful and intelligent comment on my article. While I do not “look down” on women who choose to cover, I am cognizant of the implications of the increasing number of young Turkish women choosing to cover with the turban, which, to me, is a different type of covering than those worn by traditional and older Turkish women. You are correct in assuming that, as a “secular woman,” I am fearful (at best) and apprehensive (at worst) of women being permitted to wear the turban or another type of hijab in the workplace, and you are correct in your surmise that I am fearful of being forced to conform to a new societal norm that involves a visual symbol of my faith (or lack thereof). In the Current.com piece linked in my blog (see “Reference” below), one Turkish woman, who chooses not to cover, challenges Turkish women who do when she asks, “I don’t cover and they do — does that make them more Muslim than me?” She says that she doesn’t feel she has to prove her faith by covering. If women are permitted to cover in universities or civil venues, those who choose not to do so will stand apart as “secular,” whether or not they are faithful Muslims who choose to interpret the hijab as a physical or spiritual cloak. To me, the turban is a marker. I would appreciate a work environment where women are not segregated by visual representations or markers of faith. I hope the government will continue to forbid the hijab in civil buildings, for the ban may be the only real and effective way to ensure that women have freedom to choose and practice their religion — not because they were pressured into it, but because they believe in it. I, too, am keenly awaiting post-Referendum resolutions from the AkParty. We will have to see what happens.

      References
      http://current.com/shows/vanguard/88854176_scarf-wars.htm

      • Acan

        Hello Virginia,
        Interestingly enough, we had some recent acquaintances over for the first time yesterday. I had met the man before but not his wife. She was covered in the way that you mentioned with the cloth underneath the headscarf so as no hair showed. She did not offer me her hand to shake which was fine. They moved to the U.S. two years ago and she received her mathematics degree from Aydin University and both were very educated and eloquent. I was very surprised to learn that she was not from a traditional family and decided to cover her hair of her own volition. In fact, her father beat her to try to dissuade her as he was a staunch secularist. I found the idea of being beaten horrible, but I am sure there are instances of men beating their daughters who choose not to cover too. I understand your argument as it is common; however, your and others’ fears are preempting the rights of others in a way. Why should a woman have to compromise her mode of dress in order to hold a certain job or get an education. The woman I described above mentioned that she faced many indignities while attaining her degree. She was not trying to prove anything by covering or make a statement – she just feels as though it is her religious obligation – is it for others’ to judge her intentions or interpret how she should practice her religion? I think your friend with the challenge might have her own issues. I think that there has to be a compromise somehow.

  • Natalie Turner-Jones

    I share your concern and confusion over Turkish women and their recent decision to begin “covering up”. Though I’ve only been to Istanbul once (in 2006), I have been well acquainted with several Turkish women and always associated Istanbul with very laid back muslim women who seem universally to embrace the concept of modesty and combine it with a great fashion sensibility. When I lived in London, the Turkish women I knew helped to replace my previous (and admittedly prejudiced) ideas about Islam, and opened my mind to the idea of Islam as a compassionate, moderate religion. Our conversations were lively, respectful, and deeply enlightening. This new step toward covering up seems to me to be very antithetical to what I thought I understood about the “common” Turkish view of Islam. I find myself very confused, worried, and a little sad.

    • http://allthingsguneyli.blogspot.com/ Virginia Guneyli

      Turks are moving away from images of the East and looking to and like the Middle East. This could be in part a rebellion against the United States’ war in Iraq and flimsy contributions to the Turkish-American Alliance. No doubt endlessly frustrating attempts to gain acceptance in the European Union, which I highly doubt will EVER accept them, have also motivated this new invigoration in their Middle Eastern identity (http://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/n.php?n=turkey-shifting-from-west-or-distancing-from-the-world-2010-09-15). Moreover, the turban is atypical to anything used to cover thus far in the Middle East — traditional women usually cover with something more in line with a handkerchief than the turban (http://www.business-with-turkey.com/tour-pics/village_women.jpg). The turban is yet another sign of a move toward the Middle East and away from Turkish identity. It is a symbol of a wealthy movement of fundamentalists who find their identity more in Islam than they do in the secular Turkey created by Ataturk. I find the “turban” disturbing because it symbolizes the exclusivity of this group – women have to look and pretend to be like them (even if they are not) if they want to work for their wealthy companies. This puts pressure on women who don’t cover to imitate those who do to have their lifestyle. Believe me, women in their 30s and older who have never covered aren’t going to start now, but younger women are certainly deciding to cover more than ever before, mostly because they long for the things they associate with it – security, prosperity, and marriage. I would like to pull the veil from their eyes!

Previous post:

Next post: