Whether to wear a head-scarf is an individual’s personal choice

As a female Muslim Turkish student at GW, I was appalled by a letter a fellow student wrote. In her Oct. 13 letter to the editor, Sabina Siddiqui attacked a country she obviously knows little about (“Turkey and its oppression of Islam,” p. 4).

While the vast majority of Turkish citizens are practicing Muslims (more than 99 percent of the population), Turkey is, and will continue to remain, a secular democratic country – that does NOT mean it is anti-Islamic.

Following the establishment of the secular republic, policies were adopted that made religion an entirely individualistic and personal matter – a policy that essentially eliminated religion from public life. Islam is an individualistic religion and faith – the majority of the Turkish population follow their faith in their private lives and lead secular lives in public.

The right to an education and the freedom of religion are an integral aspect of daily life in Turkey. Recently, however, certain political groups have used the issue of head-scarves as a means of achieving certain political interests.

With the passing of the law that bans head-scarves in universities, Turkey is not trying to deny anyone the right to an education. Rather, the law is designed to protect the basic beliefs and concepts firmly embedded in the Turkish constitution – the very basic foundation of secularism and democracy.

Like Ms. Siddiqui, I too am Muslim. More importantly, I, like most Turkish women, do NOT wear a head-scarf. That does not make me less of a Muslim. If you choose to wear a head-scarf, that is entirely your personal decision – I respect your choice and will not question it.

However, in Ms. Siddiqui’s letter, she stated that by wearing a scarf, “men relate to you more intellectually” because the scarf “frees” you from “stereotypes” and it enables people to see you for “who you are, not for how you look.”

She further stated you are “so much more beyond your clothes, superficial things and material things.” Yet, is the scarf not a “material” object?

The fact that I choose not to wear a head-scarf does not make me anti-Islamic; nor does it in any way impact the way people “stereotype” or see me “intellectually.” It is not a question of how people perceive who you are inside and how you look on the outside. It is a question of how you see yourself, and more importantly, how you interpret your religion.

-The writer is a vice president of the Turkish Student Association.

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