A Religious Symbol or a Political Symbol

By: Hafize ┼čule Albayrak  

Muslim preference of headscarf is commonly interpreted in two ways: as a symbol of Islamic faith and expression of personal piety or as a symbol of patriarchal oppression, enmity against modernism and secular state. Recent public debates in Western countries on Islam and headscarf give remarkable examples of diverse arguments and the discussions recall Turkish experience in the last three decades. This paper aims to draw attention to the public debates on headscarf that constitutes a symbolic issue in Turkish politics in the last three decades. It has been seen as a symbol of Islamic faith and personal piety for the common people whereas the secularist socio-political elites (politicians, intellectuals and army members) evaluated it as a symbol of being reactionary, a sign of objection to modernity and the principals of the founder of Turkish republic, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk. This interpretation had concrete results such as exclusion of covered women from public sphere via state regulations until 2010s. Meanwhile, this paper questions the commonalities and differences of the headscarf discussions in Turkey and Western Europe, thus provide a comparative analysis. The theoretical discussions on secularism, laicism and post secular society are taken into account and content analysis is used as a method.

Headscarf, Secularism, Turkey
The Politics of Religion
Paper Presentation in a Themed Session

Hafize ┼čule Albayrak

assist. prof., theology faculty, marmara university, Turkey

Assist. prof. at Marmara University, Theology Faculty. She gives lectures on sociology of religion, secularisation, religion state relations, Islam in the modern world. She is the author of the books "Christian Fundamentalism" , "State Religion relations in the USA" and the editor of the academic journal "Kadem Journal of the Women's Studies".