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Hijab Wars Key to Role Of Islam In Turkey

Pinar Tremblay writes that hijab styles offer clues to trends in Turkish religiosity.
Muslim women sit on a park bench overlooking the Golden Horn on Marmara Sea in Istanbul, April 3, 2009. REUTERS/Finbarr O'Reilly (TURKEY RELIGION SOCIETY IMAGE OF THE DAY TOP PICTURE)   FOR BEST QUALITY IMAGE: ALSO SEE GM1E57T1QGO01 - RTXDKNM

In an International Relations of the Middle East class of about 15 students, we shared images from different parts of the region; one was from a Turkish fashion magazine. The magazine’s target audience is observant Muslim women. We went through five or six photos of women (some Turkish Muslim celebrities and some foreign models). They were all in hijab (the dress code in accordance with the Islamic rules). One of the Muslim students said, “No, this is not hijab.” When asked why not, she replied, “It is not about the dress, but the pose, the makeup. This is soft porn.” Another joined her — a non-Muslim — saying, “If you are claiming to belong to a religion, you must observe adequately.”

These arguments brought forth by college undergraduates are not new. Indeed, a Somalian sheik living in Canada has coined the term "sin jaab hijab" — "sin" as in the English word and jaab from Arabic, meaning to bring forth. Sheik Said Rage explains how some styles of hijab are indeed against the modesty rule. In Turkey, it has been a significant and difficult battle for many observant Muslim women to participate in the public domain with a headscarf. The public spaces, i.e., schools, elementary and college alike, government workplaces — from courts to the army — have banned women from covering their heads. The hope of Kemalism was to modernize the country, and the veil (niqab) did not belong. Times have surely changed.

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