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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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