01/30/2008, 00.00
TURKEY
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Sharp controversy over the ban on veils in schools

The confrontation between those in favour and those opposed extends through the entire country. Although they have a majority in parliament, those in favour of overturning the ban are afraid that the constitutional court would block such a provision as incompatible with the "unchangeable" secularism of the state.

Ankara (AsiaNews) - Popular and political debate rages on in Turkey over the abolition of the ban against the wearing of the Islamic veil in schools and universities.  According to some surveys, 80% of the population is in favour of overturning the ban. Although it has the necessary margin to amend the constitutional ban, the agreement reached on Monday between the majority party of prime minister Recep Tayyp Erdogan, the AKP, and the Nationalist Action Party (MHP) has not been able to put an end to the controversy, nor to guarantee that the eventual modification would be put into effect. It is, in fact, widely believed that the constitutional court would overrule a modification of the constitutional ban as contrary to the "unchangeable" secularism of the state.

Although it is not directly established by the 1925 constitution of Kemal Ataturk - the father of modern-day Turkey - the ban on the veil was approved by the constitutional court, in a move analogous to the one that forbids men to wear a cap indicating their religious affiliation.  On this basis, in the 1980's the court overturned a law permitting the veil.

Now it seems that there is a search underway to avoid a potential impasse: one solution proposed is a formulation of the norm that would outlaw discrimination based on dress (without naming the veil), another formulates a distinction between the "basortusu", which more or less corresponds to an ordinary hat, and the "turban", the Islamic veil that completely covers the hair and neck.

Erdogan, whose wife and daughter wear the veil and who is the head of an Islamic party, has been promising to abolish the ban since the elections of 2002, and now maintains that the wearing of the veil is a matter of human rights.  But the opponents, who are supported by the Republican Popular Party (CHP), the country's oldest political group, say that the presence of girls wearing veils in the schools would produce unbearable "pressure" on those who do not want to wear it, forcing them to adopt the veil in violation of their freedom.  The question is not closed.

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