Monday, April 30, 2007

Militantly Secular

Two propositions:

The force of government, within Metra philosophy land, should not be used coerce people into following the tenets of a religion. (Look, I'm a product of the Western Enlightenment!)

The force of government should not be used to prohibit persons from -- of their own free will -- following the tenets of a religion.

In some ways, I wish Americans would be more like the Turks and would take to the streets to protest goverment changes that they do not support. (We are APATHETIC.) At the same time, I'm distrubed by the attitudes of the quotes and even the writing style of the AP article that appeared this morning in the Washington Post.
"We don't want a covered woman in Ataturk's presidential palace," protester Ayse Bari, a 67-year-old homemaker, said in reference to Gul's wife, Hayrunisa, who wears a Muslim head scarf. "We want civilized, modern people there."
I'm not sure if I like the tendency to link non-observance to civility and modernity. Modern, okay maybe, I find it hard to consider many people who are constantly insisting that science is somehow only right when it confirms Biblical accounts to be modern. But, civility? It's true that few things are worse that encountering a person who believes his or her religion gives him or her the right to treat you as a non-human, but I know a goodly number of very religious people -- even some who might not be modern -- and they are quite civilized. Religious observance and civilization are two separate things.

I'm also very concerned by the tendency of the article, at least, to focus all of the negative attention on Turkish foriegn minister's wife, Hayrunisa Gul, and her choice to wear a headscarf. I don't know what type of policies the pro-Islamic government is/was planning to implement and should there be an attempt to limit the human rights of the Turkish people, I will applaude their efforts to maintain their rights. However, I am concerned by the author's choice to link a governmental assault on the separation of state and religion to Gul's attempt to gain the right to wear a headscarf to university. It's a return to the old trope of when in doubt, find a conveinent woman to pin the blame on.

I understand how it could be symbolic of larger issues -- for instance, I would not respond well to be told that I needed to wear a headscarf -- but ultimately, Gul's personal choice to wear a headscarf has nothing to do with me or anyone else, and she should not have to remove it to make other people comfortable.

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