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Thursday, December 29, 2011

Roger Friedland: Islam, Gender and Democracy in Turkey

Islam, Gender and Democracy in Turkey

Secular republicans saw, and some still see, the woman's headscarf -- interpreted by pious Muslims as a religious obligation -- as the wedge by which Islamic law will enter the Turkish republic. One practice, its secular critics worry, will lead to another. Mustafa Akyol, a young modernist Muslim thinker, disagrees. "The headscarf is expected from Muslims," he tells my students who have come here from New York University-Abu Dhabi, "but it is up to rational choice, like fasting for Ramadan. Forcing someone to wear it would be a sin. Sins should not be punished as if they were crimes." But that does not calm secular Turks. Providing public warrant for women who want to avoid an Islamic sin, they fear, is ultimately going to open the door to punishing Islamic crimes -- like apostasy or adultery.

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