Saturday, 21 September 2013

Headscarves

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I was in Istanbul again last month. Every time I visit I see more and more head scarves, though I do not know how  many of the scarf-wearers are tourists, how many Turks. I spend my time, naturally, in the historic centre of the city, even though I avoid the hardcore
tourist areas.

I am torn two ways about whether this is a good thing or not. In a Christian country it would dismay me and instinctively it does in Turkey, but Turkey is not a Christian country. (Most of Ottoman Turkey's Christians were killed or driven out between 1914 and 1924.) If Turkey is becoming more religious, why should this be a bad thing? In principle, there is no reason but can Muslim religiosity and freedom and free elections co-exist? It looks like we may find out. Though the Turkish republic has not been democratic for most of its existence it has provided a lot of freedom to the inhabitants.

The bloodshed in Egypt and the slaughter of Muslim Bothers makes this interesting video of Colonel Nasser from 1953 seem timely. It shows Nasser tellıng a large audıence how in 1953 he wanted to cooperate with the Muslim Brotherhood and met with its leader who told him he wanted to introduce sharia law - the audience roared with laughter.


His first demand was “for every woman walking in the street to wear a headscarf.”

The audience erupted in laughter; one person shouted “Let him wear it!” - more laughter and applause.

Nasser continued that if they enforced the hijab, people would say Egypt had returned to the dark ages (to more laughter), adding that Egyptians should uphold such matters in the privacy of their own homes.

But the Muslim Brotherhood leader informed him that, as Egypt’s president, Nasser himself must enforce the hijab, to which Nasser replied:

Sir, I know you have a daughter in college—and she doesn’t wear a headscarf or anything! [laughter] Why don’t you make her wear the headscarf? [laughter] So you can’t make one girl, your own daughter, wear it, and yet you want me to go and make ten million women wear it?!” [laughter and applause].
When I was in Egypt I switched on the television in my hotel bedroom and saw some minutes of a film that looked like it was made in the early 1950s where the women dressed very much like their contemporaries in Europe, with knee-length skirts and perms. It was made in rather than dubbed into Arabic.

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