Thursday, February 16, 2006

Turkish Tremors

Turkish Tremors: A Society in Knots over Headscarfs - International - SPIEGEL ONLINE - News:
Islamist member of parliament Merve Kavakci triggered an uproar when she appeared at her swearing-in ceremony in 1999 wearing a headscarf. As she walked into the parliament building, other members of parliament jumped up from their seats and yelled: 'Get out! Get out!' Kavakci was expelled from the parliament and has never returned.
That's great, but I wonder whether the same will occur in 10 or 20 years? It seems to me there'll either be no need for such outbursts, or the ones wanting to yell "Get out! Get out!" will have been silenced by religious bullies. The tightrope of today seems the least likely eventuality. The most likely seems to favor the bullies.
What is the greater good -- the individual's religious freedom or the secular principle of the state?
The question is incorrect. Religious "freedom" today facilitates the suppression of secularism tomorrow, which implies the sort of religious "freedom" presently enjoyed in places like Saudi Arabia.
Turkey's secular forces, on the other hand, feel vindicated by the Strasbourg ruling. "The system worked," says historian Cagaptay, who is convinced that Turkey has "no potential for fundamentalism."
No potential for fundamentalism. I certainly hope he's right.


jj mollo said...

It's hard to see the virtue of shouting down a woman for wearing a headscarf, but religion can hold a frightening force. Attaturk wanted Turkey to be part of Europe and was willing to go to great lengths to do that. He even outlawed the fez. He knew that symbolism packs enormous power. In the US we have a hard time understanding this, but sometimes such actions are necessary to defang an irrational power center. Mexico did a similar thing in the 20's(?) by denying nuns and priests of the Catholic Church the right to wear clearical garb in the streets.

In the US we don't have to worry as much because there are so many different power centers. They cancel each other out to a certain extent. I don't think that Turkey is safe from fundamentalism yet because they still suppress discussion of anti-state ideas, such as the facts of the Armenian genocide and the legitimacy of Kurdish rights. Their reaction to the J-P cartoons hasn't been very rational either. The President of Turkey even left Denmark in a huff because Denmark's government refused to condemn the newspaper.

jj mollo said...

I talked about Erdogan's huff in November on my blog. I also noticed that the Zaman post that I linked to has changed somewhat since I linked it. I'm guessing the changes were to expand the scope of Erdogan's ire to include the Danish TV station, but I didn't save the original, so I'm not sure.

Steve said...

Shouting the woman down, I think, was less for her wearing of a headscarf and more because they understood why she was wearing it.

She was wearing the headscarf because she's an islamist who, like christianists, understood the power of monkey see monkey do.

She was wearing the headscarf for the same sort of reason christianists would like christian prayer back in the American public school, to help indoctrinate people and to bolster their false claim that this is a christian nation.

Robert Cialdini wrote about this sort of thing in his Influence - the Psychology of Persuasion. He recounts how Billy Graham's revivals were seeded with plants who would start the procession of those who supposedly wanted to come forward to give their hearts to Jesus or whatever. Monkey see monkey do.

Maybe I'm just being cynical, but that's the way I see it.