This book is a product of longtime firsthand observation of the headscarf debate in my personal and professional life in Turkey and abroad. For a long time, I was hesitant to write a scholarly book about the headscarf controversy as I thought wearing a headscarf would soon be normalized and disappear as a public concern. I was wrong. Not only has the headscarf controversy in Turkey persisted, in recent years the issue has generated a global debate and the headscarf is increasingly treated in parts of the West as an unwelcome symbol of Islam.
I have childhood memories of my mother’s headscarf excluding her from taking part in official events in Turkey. Then during 1990s I witnessed female students being expelled from the University of Ankara Faculty of Law for wearing headscarves. In my American life I now encounter the frequent preoccupation of Muslims studying in North American universities as to whether they should take off their headscarves or, conversely, start to wear them. It is an enigma that Muslim women should be challenged in this manner early in the twenty-first century.
During the process of thinking about, researching, and writing this book I received many valuable ideas from friends and colleagues. Many of my secular friends in Turkey shared their thoughts on why headscarves should not be allowed in higher-education institutions and, even if they are allowed in Turkish universities in the future, they should still be banned in middle schools and high schools, as well as in government offices. Among many, I would single out my dear friends Ceylan Orhon, Gila Benmayor, Oren Altmisyedioglu, Turgut Tarhanli, and Gulen Guler; and my colleagues and close friends at the University of Ankara, Faculty of Law, Gulnihal Bozkurt and Bilgin Tiryakioglu. All shared their wisdom, knowledge, and profound experiences, which particularly provided me with an understanding of firsthand participants in the headscarf debate.