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MEHMET ALİ BİRAND > Headscarves on television screens

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Last week on Erkam Tufan’s program on Bugün TV, I gave a wrong answer. Actually, I gave the answer without thinking adequately. As a result, I was misunderstood and injured myself.

The question was why there was no headscarved staff in the newsroom I was directing.

Because no person who was wearing a headscarf had applied to us before, this topic was never on our agenda. I had never thought about this. When Erkam asked, I first said “Nobody applied…” When he insisted, I said I would consider a young girl, a person who was interning in New York now and who had found me in the NT bookstore.

Erkam gave me a hard time and said, “This is not you.” I understood then that he was asking me why I have never had a headscarved person on the screen as a presenter. I continued chatting and said, “I don’t know if it would be interesting on the screen.” I stopped and thought a little and just uttered these words, “But the channel has a brand. It may be harmed.” I think I am paying for telling the truth, not hiding my real thoughts.

Actually, this topic has never been discussed up to now either at the executive level of the channel nor in our newsroom. Not even once have the owners of the channel nor top executives said anything about not wanting headscarves. Moreover, not in our newsroom, but in other departments, we have headscarved employees.

Again, I should tell you the truth that I have no objection to any employee wearing headscarves in the media, or anybody as a guest or as a moderator. There is no restriction there on my part. However, any person who would become a presenter or a newscaster wearing a headscarf is generally a rare case.

Look at the televisions of strictly Muslim countries (except for Saudi Arabia and Iran); the rate of covered presenters or newscasters is very low. You do not need to go very far, look at our conservative channels. Except for one or two covered people, others have uncovered heads.

I should also make another additional comment here: In all of us – a little in some of us, much more in others – we have old habits. Disregarding this would be lying.

Just as wearing a headscarf is a personal choice, how someone looks on the screen is the personal choice of channel executives. You may be criticized for this choice; however, this preference has nothing to do with religion.

Why not?
After this TV interview of mine, a storm broke out. Columnist Cüneyt Özdemir’s “outdated approach” criticism was right but especially other columns by Hilal Kaplan (daily Yeni Şafak), Elif Çakır, Fadime Özkan and Halime Kökçe (daily Star) upset me.

The reason I was sad is that when everybody was running away and hiding, I was defending headscarves for years. I had openly taken a stance for the freedom to wear headscarves in universities. During the presidential elections, I had repeated many times that first lady-to-be Hayrünisa Gül’s headscarf should not be an issue. Despite all this, I was now accused of being a “headscarf fascist.”

As a last note, I wonder to what extent the conservative segment is defending the headscarf. This might be out of context, but there are some in the conservative segment who should be scrutinized.

In general, after the headscarf wars were won, nowadays, it looks as if the former enthusiasm is gone.

Sorry for expressing my sincere views. Also, thank you for your warnings.

December/14/2012

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mara mcglothin

12/18/2012 11:04:55 PM

MURAT Good ideas! In the USA you are free to cover your head, but it you work around machinery or work in a profession that you need to be identified easily then we have a right to ban the wearing of headscarves. Just like alcohol is legal, but we test for it in the construction industry should you be involved in a jobsite accident. You should also have the right not to allow a headscarved woman to represent your business if you don't like it. Simple.

cezer "çapulcu" skonore

12/14/2012 9:04:29 PM

Freedom to headscarf may also mean freedom to force women to wear headscarf. It is a difficult problem to ban or let go, either way women suffers.

Murat

12/14/2012 7:58:12 PM

It is like legalization of drugs in my opinion. I think they should be made legal by all means and taxed to the hilt. BUT, employer (state or private) should retais the right to fire anyone who fails a drug test. Freedoms should work both ways. Just becuase it is legal and ok, does not mean I am not free to dislike or have policies that may discriminate against a certain type of behaviour our outlook.

Agnes Smith

12/14/2012 2:42:38 PM

Iran’s Parliament passed legislation earlier this year authorizing “temporary marriage” as a way of circumventing Islam’s ban on extra-marital sex. The law allows men to have as many sexual partners as they want in accordance with Iran’s interpretation of Sharia law, as long as they qualify as a temporary marriage. Sex outside marriage is punishable in Iran by 100 lashes or, if adulterous, by stoning to death. A temporary marriage can be for a few minutes or for several years.

Agnes Smith

12/14/2012 11:22:43 AM

You don't have to wear a headscarf to be a good healthy conscientious muslim.This whole subject has spiralled out of control. It is a good point made that in many muslim countries the newsreaders are uncovered. And why? Quite simply they are free not to and if you are going to get a man to tune in to your station he is more likely to if the girl is attractive. Turkey is a champion of this. They are all like beauty queens. How will newspapers sell if there are no scantily clad girls and soccer?

A.MENAF GÜLBAY

12/14/2012 10:37:18 AM

thak you for you are awake about this topc

Rimon Tree

12/14/2012 9:42:02 AM

Mr.Birand I think that there is nothing wrong with wearing headscarves anywhere if the person concerned really WANTS it. But it is absolutely wrong if a person is FORCED to wear it, even if this happens not in an open, but sometimes very sublime way. Same goes for Islam itself in company with any other religion who wants to force their believes (and it is only believes!) upon the whole life of people. Solid education will be the only way to prevent this. Build schools, not mosques!

cagdas erdogan

12/14/2012 2:46:52 AM

once you make a fault by saying something although your opinion is not that, you criticized all the time by some futile columnists.

mara mcglothin

12/14/2012 1:38:38 AM

You have hit the nail on the head. Nice writing MAB.
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