Headscarves to placate the police

An interesting observation I ran across in an interview with a Turkish journalist: Apparently, many women drivers in Turkey have begun to keep a headscarf in the car. This is just in case they run into a police checkpoint (usually for traffic purposes). In Turkey today, the police are notoriously a stronghold of religious conservatism. So when a woman drives by the police with a headscarf on, she is supposed to be less likely to be stopped for an examination of her license.

Stories like this underscore the difficulty of approaching questions like Islamic garb primarily by asking about whether covering up is a free choice. Few of our choices ever approach a liberal ideal of unconstrained considered choice. In an environment like urban Turkey today, both wearing and not wearing a headscarf are complicated options that are never as simple as an expression of faith or a fashion choice.

About Taner Edis

Professor of physics at Truman State University

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/05342734091237801188 Ideologee

    Recently you pondered the future of Turkey. Here is a convincing prognosis:

    "I have many friends who can be classified as modern Turks. They are horrified by what is going on in Turkey.

    Some of them who have family members connected with political parties have told me about the intimidation and imprisonment of political opponents. Turkey is on a slow boil–it will, in due course, become an unabashedly theocratic Islamic country…

    Attaturk himself was impressed by the West when the West was self-confident and something that the rest of the world looked at in admiration. He was particularly impressed by Bismarck and by the pre-WWI Germans. Who wouldn't be? A country that gave the word so much in music, art, literature, philosophy and of course, science.

    I can describe my own feelings in this respect when reading about the Founding Fathers, about Lincoln and about Theodore Roosevelt. The current state of the West has become so decadent that no self-respecting man who loves his country would want it to become like modern American or Britain (or any of the other countries in the ridiculous EU–even though those countries are technologically advanced and very rich).

    I think there is a crisis of the soul in Turkey. Attaturk's vision was to make it into a modern, secular European country. Many Turks look at modern, secular Europe and are appalled by it. I get the sense when speaking to modern Turks that they no longer have a cause–other than a negative cause (which is that they are opposed to Turkey becoming a theocratic Muslim state). They can no longer offer their people a genuinely positive vision in the way that Attaturk did."