Women wearing turban was already an issue that confounded politics in Turkey and the Islamic world alike. The issue became an international matter of debate with full coverage of some Muslim women hiding even their faces behind çarşaf (a whole sheet of dark cloth in Turkish; chadur or hijab in other languages) in Western countries as well as Turkey. This is not only amazing but also alarming regarding the ineffective influence of modernization among certain groups and the suppression of women by man that deny equality and independence to the former. Despite the rhetoric that the way people dress is a matter of freedom, I believe that on the whole there is a man with a covered brain and soul behind every covered woman. But then it may be argued that, although a small number, some independent women either by mentality or social-economic privileges cover up too. That is true; but what about group pressure and the stringent socialization that they have undergone since their childhood internalizing values that are pre-modern which is sustained by the group they still live amongst? How many fully covered Muslim women can we found living alone with economic and social independence outside a conservative Muslim community in a modern part of the world? Let us say that mine is a wrong assumption with an emphasis on group pressure. Allow me to point out a few recent examples as proof of men praying on women’s status as well as her flesh because they afford no individuality to women.
When Mr. R.C. Erdoğan became Prime Minister, his wife was interviewed by a lady journalist who was herself covered as her hostess. Mrs. Erdoğan said that during her high school days she returned home a little late that day from a meeting of girl friends. Her brother met her with fury, slapped her on the face and said, “You will cover up from now on”, meaning that he did not approve of his sister’s independence and freedom of action. When asked how she responded, Ms. Erdoğan said, “I wept for days but accepted the reality and later liked it. Now, I will not take my turban off for anything.” The journalist lady also told a similar story of her own in the published interview. These are ladies who defend the turban as a matter choice after being “persuaded” by means other than what may be called ‘kind’ or benign.
As regards the meanness of group pressure hear this: Only last week we read the murder of a 15 year girl (Naile Erdaş) raped and sent home pregnant. Her father did everything to protect her from the wrath of close relatives and neighbors as if she was the reason of her ill fortune. Feeling that the family honor was stained, the closest kin of the family excommunicated the family, broke the windows of their home and the brother of the unfortunate girl killed the poor soul in order “to cleanse the stained family honor” by blood. Believe it or not the girl was wearing turban all the time because she came from a conservative background (Başkale township of Van). So the way women are treated and the (inferior) social status afforded to them is not a matter of what they wear but how men place them in the social hierarchy they shape.
Let me give two more examples to point out whether it is the personality or the sexuality of women that is taken more seriously in placing them in a social nexus dominated by man most of whom think and dress as if they have been beamed from the Middle Ages. One is domestic: His name is Ahmet Mahmut Ünlü, he is the leader of a fundamentalist sect like community organized around the İsmailağa Mosque in Istanbul. He has been leading a luxurious life on contributions from his followers. He recently said that after age seven girls should be covered and their fathers should not caress and kiss their daughters after the age of twelve just as he does not. Here is a man, supposedly a religious leader (although of an obscure community) living in Istanbul speaking in a perverted manner concerning sexuality although is his own daughter that is involved. His message is clear: keep women at home and in bed but nothing else in social life. Such kind of men is only ready to share life with women in no other milieu than home. This is the response of men who are not equipped with modern values, professionalism and the demands of contemporary life. They are already hard pressed by the competition of other men that are better equipped. They can not stand the additional competition of women as well. So they try to keep them dependent and inferior. Of course they can do it to women who are uneducated, less equipped with modern means than they are and totally dependent on them economically and socially.
The second example is from Australia: His name is Sheikh Tacettin el Hilali who is the imam of the Lakemba Mosqoue in Sydney. He also holds the title of the Mufti of Australia. Only recently he likened uncovered women to naked meat ready to be snatched away by hungry “cats”. This religious cat also accused women who put on too much makeup and walk in a sexy manner. Hold on; he blamed such women to draw on rape and sexual assault. So the victim for the Mufti is the main culprit.
Such rhetoric is common among these hungry cats that look at women as raw meat. If only they could question that the evil is not in the manner women dress but in the eye of these primitive men who see women not as a personality but as a sexual prey. Why don’t they then? They don’t because they are socialized in values of a time or a society bearing the traditions where women were not yet emancipated and had become social agents. It does not matter whether they have migrated to more modern countries. Their mentality and social reality is shaped by underdeveloped societies and their pre-modern values. As long as they can sustain a pre-modern community anywhere in the world, they will impose their will and sexual appetite on women they control. It is very hard to change the mentality of these men because this is a power relationship which they are afraid to loose. If they loose there is nothing to gain for them; not only they will loose their superiority but they will loose a world they dominate. But women may be influenced and helped, especially in more modern societies to realize their won emancipation.
The moral of the story is: Don’t push the women in traditional cover away. They have been alienated from modern life, deprived of freedom and independence by their men (fathers, brother, husbands and obscurantist religious community leaders) anyway. Help them plan and work for their emancipation. Be their partner in this worthy project to open the door of contemporary civilization to their dimmed existence. For every women delivered from the bondage of tradition that is sold as the requirement of religion, you can cleanse religion from bigotry and women from bondage to primitive men who thrive on their mental and social slavery.
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