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The Individuals Obligations Towards The State: Muslim Women And The Jihab

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“Jihab” is the Arab word which stands to name the head scarf women use to cover their hair and partly their faces in public places.

This remarkable religious symbol has it’s origin in the pagan earlier period of Arab communities: before converting to Islam, most Arabs were pagans. The strongest divinities of these pagan communities were related to the feminine role. They were very powerful figures. Once these communities converted into Islam, not only were temples and other religious representations destroyed but also women were “erased” from public life being. One of the most outstanding measures was to impose the use of headscarves to prevent provocation and to make society forget about their pagan origin. There was a noticeable fear of the disorder of the times before Islam ruled.

Nowadays, Western societies perceive headscarves as a menace to democracy as they belief it’s a sign that clearly discriminates women from men in a very negative sense. Countries such as France and The Netherlands have experienced a huge social debate: there has been a great controversy about the wearing of headscarves which has finally lead to the banning of religious external symbols in public places. Religion has been confined to the private sphere.

Secular Muslim States such as Turkey also see headscarves as an element of social disrupt: “headscarves considered as a symbol of backwardness” . In fact, Turkey currently holds an official prohibition of wearing jihab in public places.

But still, there an important debate about religious obligation versus religious expression in Turkey’s society.

We will now refer to Merve Kavakci’s case. Merve KavakÐ"§Ð"± was a Turkish politician, who was elected as deputy for the Virtue Party in 1999. In her daily life, she wore the head scarf as a symbol of her personal religious conviction., she chose to wear a head scarf in the swearing-in ceremony in Grand National Assembly in defiance of the secular Turkish constitution to the in open contravention of the law which forbids the wearing of it for public servants because of the rules of secularism in Turkey. She was consequently prevented from making her parliamentary affirmation. Later on, President Demirel accused Kavakci of being a foreign agent, implicitly of Iran after there was a demonstration in Teheran in favour of Kavakci. Further accusations related her with the exploiting religion for political purposes

Even if Turkey is established as a Secular state and has a concrete prohibition about the wearing of headscarves, did Merve KavakÐ"§i have to follow this rules which were clearly directed to neutralising her religious belief? It seems as if KavakÐ"§i’s case it is not a religious obligation but an imposition from a secular fundamentalist state. Hence, the question that may come up to us is: in which way are individuals religious personal choices submitted to the States will? Does every individual have to adhere to the State’s value in order have the right to receive its protection?

On the one hand, KavakÐ"§i’s case may seem as an extreme situation of intolerance by the Government. Even if she had been elected knowing the voters her religious believes and the way in which she publicly expressed them (she always wore the jihab), the Grand National Assembly and moreover President Demirel’s attitude kept her away from being able to develop her political role.

Although the means of approaching might have not been the



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