The Headscarf Controversy: Secularism and Freedom of Religion

By Hilal Elver | Go to book overview

3
Understanding a Complex History

Our most important question is where and how we are
going to connect with our past.

AHMET HAMDI TANPINAR, TURKISH NOVELIST


1. The Modernity Project and Turkish Legal History

One of the most important historical transformations in Turkish society was the modernization project that unfolded in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. During this period, Turkey experienced an important nation-building process that transformed it from an Islamic empire to a secular nation-state. The Turkish state was formed in the wake of the collapse of the Ottoman Empire and was coupled with a dramatic cultural “revolution from above,” conceived and carried out by Mustafa Kemal Ataturk and the military leadership that had emerged victorious from the Turkish War of Independence. Inspired by European models, the cultural revolution became integral to the nation-building effort, transforming Turkish society from a remnant of a failed empire to a unified and homogenized social entity.1 The root causes of the recent debate that has divided the country sharply between secular moderns and religious traditionals can be traced back to the original transformation and modernization project of the Republic of Turkey. During this period, radical cultural and legal reforms were adopted, including the codification of the entire corpus of domestic law. Such modernization involved the coercive transformation of the social structure of the society to resemble, as much as possible, its European model.2

During the transformation period, two consecutive, ideologically distinct policy approaches were offered to best implement the reform program

-41-

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The Headscarf Controversy: Secularism and Freedom of Religion
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Acknowledgments ix
  • 1- Introduction Point of Departure 1
  • Part One- Turkey 13
  • 2- The Nature of the Headscarf Controversy in Turkey Popular Discourse 15
  • 3- Understanding a Complex History 41
  • 4- The Role of the European Court of Human Rights 72
  • Part Two- Europe and the United States 99
  • 5- Anti-Islamic Discourses in Europe 101
  • 6- France 111
  • 7- Germany 129
  • 8- The United States from Melting Pot to Islamophobia 153
  • 9- Conclusion 186
  • Notes 202
  • Selected Bibliography 249
  • Index 259
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