The headscarf is finally free; the country is not

The headscarf is finally free; the country is not

More than a decade ago, this column predicted that what most Western pundits then labeled as “Turkey’s pro-freedom reformists” would bring “reforms” merely about to broaden freedoms for political Islam and its symbols and restrict (non-Islamist) freedoms in general. More than a decade later, the prime minister, Ahmet Davuoglu, declared that “finally the [Islamic] headscarf is totally free.” Only a few months earlier, Freedom House, a prestigious institute, had to put Turkey into the category of countries it labels as “not free.” 

Each time they needed a pretext to advance political Islam and its cliché symbols, Turkey’s Islamists advocated “freedoms.” Freedom to wear the Islamic headscarf, for example. Invariably, they were trying to cheat. When Islamists speak of freedoms, they always discreetly refer to freedoms of their choice. The government’s freedom to enroll Christian students in imam schools; to enroll girls into imam schools, not caring how ridiculous a country might look by trying to make the world’s first female and Christian imams.

A new education bill that allows 10-year-old girls who are students to wear the Islamic headscarf also requires imam schools to have kindergartens on their premises – so that three to four-year-old kids can warm up for Islamic teachings. Freedoms? Only when they serve Islamism.

For instance, the same education bill bans students from sporting tattoos and piercings, as well as “any headgear, bags or other materials that may manifest political symbols.” So, Turkish students can proudly manifest the headscarf, a powerful symbol of political Islam, but not any other political symbol.

Similarly, an adult university student in Turkey, aged over 18, can vote, but is not allowed to enjoy a pint of beer at a rock concert. According to President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, female and male students at a university campus should not sit together on a park bench. And just remember Mr. Erdoğan’s unconstitutional war on co-ed student housing last year. Freedoms? 

On Sept. 15, the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR), Europe’s top court, ruled that the compulsory religion classes in Turkey (which exclusively teach Sunni Islam) violated parents’ rights to avoid religious teachings. Turkey is a signatory to the European Convention on Human Rights and must comply with the rulings of the ECHR, but apparently not when Islamism is at stake.

“This is an incorrect verdict,” said Mr. Erdoğan and brushed the ruling aside. As always, his reasoning in defense of the compulsory religion classes looked unconvincing. “Nowhere in the world can you see a debate over compulsory physics, chemistry or mathematics classes,” Erdoğan said. For Erdoğan, classes that teach pupils the greatness of Sunni Islam are as necessary as classes that teach physics, chemistry or mathematics.

But there is more in Mr. Erdoğan’s thinking as to why religion classes are necessary and must remain compulsory courses. Preaching to the Europeans, whose top court had ruled against compulsory religion classes, Mr. Erdoğan roared: “Why do you complain of drug abuse and terrorism if you dispute compulsory religion classes?” Now we know that Mr. Erdoğan believes terrorism and drug addiction exist because religion classes are not compulsory in Europe.

Could it be that the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) is beheading “infidels” because its members were taught physics, chemistry and mathematics instead of religion? Do all of the assortments of Islamic terrorists kill because they were not enrolled in Turkish religion classes? 

Could it be that Iran boasts the world’s highest rate of drug addiction because the Islamic republic teaches its pupils science instead of religion? Do 80 percent of Iranian girls, aged between 16 and 25, have premarital relations with the opposite sex because they did not learn Islam at school?

Meanwhile, Mr. Erdoğan has said ISIL has nothing to do with Islam. How sad that Japan shamefully ignored teaching Islam to its pupils and now a Shintoist monster has emerged in Iraq and the Levant!