According to a Turkish news agency, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton praised religious freedom in Turkey, saying, “Turkey also now allows women to wear headscarves at universities, which means female students no longer have to choose between their religion and their education.”
If this statement is accurate, Clinton accepts the Islamist argument hook, line, and sinker. Let’s put aside the idea that head scarves or full veiling, as is increasingly common in some segments of Turkish society, is ‘”religion.” The Quran talks about the importance of modesty, but Muslims communities are not homogenous and not every Muslim accepts Saudi interpretations of Islamic law.
Anyone who has been the parent of a teenage girl in a majority Muslim country (admittedly, I am not—although I have many Iraqi, Lebanese, and Turkish friends who are) will testify to the tremendous peer pressure which their child must resist. The issue for educators in Turkey is to have an atmosphere in which education takes priority over religious proselytization and in which girls needn’t fear a well-financed mobs of burka-clad bullies compelling them through methods other than free choice to cover up and embrace the concept of separate but equal, rather than equality of opportunity.
In theory, the range of choice might be wide, but what Turkish university administrators know is that in reality, there are only two choices: a campus of women donning head-coverings, or a campus of women not compelled to veil. Indeed, while Clinton celebrates Turkey’s Islamist reforms, I’ve noted previously the staggering inequality which Turkey’s women now face.