Tuesday, February 19, 2008
Tensions Rise in Turkey
As Turkey lurches toward a repeal of a ban on head scarves at universities, the country's secular upper middle class is feeling increasingly threatened.
Religious Turks, once the underclass of society here, have become educated and middle class, and are moving into urban spaces that were once the exclusive domain of the elite. Now the repeal of the scarf ban — pressed by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, passed by Parliament and now just awaiting an official signature — is again setting the two groups against each other, unleashing fears that have as much to do with class rivalry as with the growing influence of Islam.
While the public debate here typically revolves around Islam and how much space it should have in Turkish society — a legitimate concern in a country whose population is overwhelmingly Muslim and deeply conservative — the struggle over power is a glaring, if often unspoken, part of the tension between the two groups. Secular women at parties speak disdainfully of covered women and the neighborhoods they populate. Older people shake their heads and cluck their tongues at them. High school boys yell, "go back to Iran."
Alfred Hitchcock's "Foreign Correspondent"