Thursday, June 05, 2008

Court Annuls Turkish Scarf Reform and the Trial of the AKP

BBC: Court annuls Turkish scarf reform


1918: The Ottoman Empire had crumbled. In its place was a much smaller, much weaker, much poorer state called ‘Turkey’. The nation was in chaos. Soon, a strong leader emerged: Ataturk. Cut through the crap and you will find Ataturk pushed through many reforms that westernized Turkey and made the country probably the most successful in the region, but most importantly for us, took Islam out of public life. The caliphate was ended, women were given more rights, and Ataturk even moved the Muslim holy day from Friday to Sunday.

In recent years, there has been a burst of political Islam in Turkey. The ruling AK Party is relatively conservative and religious, but no where near the extent as seen in Saudi Arabia, Iran or Iraq. One of the more controversial laws passed under the AK Party was a law that eased the ban on headscarves being worn by women at universities. The government argued that a headscarf ban stops many girls being educated; it is apparent, however, the Constitutional Court disagreed.

In a separate court case, a special prosecutor has challenged the secularism and therefore the legality of the existence of the AK Party. If the AK Party is banned, Turkey could be sent in to turmoil, as the party controls over 340 of the 550 Turkish parliamentary seats and controls the prime ministership and the presidency.

Secularism and the AKP
The overturn of the law is a victory for secularism in Turkey; however, the case against the AK Party is ludicrous. The disbandment of the AKP would empower the army, which is not the institution of freedom, especially in Turkey, to say the least. The AKP has pursued liberal policies, often times more liberal than those of the more secular parties. In fact, between 1996 and 2007, the Turkish public's desire for Sharia law went from 19% to 8%. As well, the end of the AK Party would mean chaos for Ankara. With a loss of such a huge number of in-office experienced officials could be permanently devastating.

It will suffice to say that the Constitutional Court of Turkey would be making a grave mistake if they were to ban the AK Party.