Across the Boundaries of Belief: Contemporary Issues in the Anthropology of Religion

By Morton Klass; Maxine Weisgrau | Go to book overview

15 Muslim Identity and Secularism in Contemporary Turkey "The Headscarf Dispute"

Emelie A. Olson

In July, 1984, a dispute erupted in Turkey when a female chemical engineering professor insisted on wearing a headscarf while teaching. In an attempt to understand how the headscarf has become such a potent symbol, the dispute is interpreted in the context of a basic ideological conflict which has shaped Turkish culture and society over the last 150 years. --Author's Abstract

ON JULY 31, 1984, the Ankara-based Daily News published a picture of three women students, one of them wearing a turban with her academic robe. The accompanying article noted that the turbaned woman, who graduated with highest honors from the Medical Faculty at the University of Ankara, was allowed to graduate but not to make the speech traditionally delivered by the top student.

A week earlier, on July 22, Milliyet, an Istanbul-based daily newspaper, had pictured two women arranging their headscarves in an attempt to clarify the definition of the word baş örtüsü, literally, "head covering," but meaning "headscarf." The picture caption read: "Turban--Headscarf Dispute Continues." The article described the angry reaction of four medical students who were suspended from Uludag University in Bursa for coming to university exams with scarves which they said were wrapped around their heads "turban-style." By July 26, the "headscarf controversy" had reached the front page of the Milliyet. On that date, Dr. Koru, Assistant Professor of Chemical Engineering at Aegean University in Izmir, was pictured in her headscarf, with the caption: "This Is My Philosophy of Life." The headline proclaimed: "Assistant ProfessorKoru Gave This Response to Her Rector's

____________________
Anthropological Quarterly 58( 4) ( October 1985): 161-171.

-291-

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