Turkey’s Constitutional Court overturned one of the ruling AK party’s central “reforms” – an amendment to the Turkish constitution that reintroduced Islamic headscarves in public universities, undermining decades of secularism in this Muslim country that wants to join the European Union. The opposition CHP party sued to block the amendment, and the court sided with them 9 to 2. Reuters reports that overturning the amendment is the opening salvo in taking Turkey back from the Islamists:

The headscarf amendment plays a central role in a separate, crucial case that seeks to outlaw the AK Party for anti-secular activities, and ban 71 members, including the prime minister and president, from belonging to a political party for five years. …

More conservative secularists saw the amendment as a violation of strict separation between Mosque and state, and evidence the AK Party has a secret agenda to introduce a system of Islamic law. …

The Constitutional Court, the highest judicial body, said lifting the headscarf ban was contrary to three articles in the constitution, including article two that specifies that Turkey is a secular republic. Turkey is also 99 percent Muslim. …

If AK is outlawed its members in parliament are expected to form a new political party and form the next government, analysts said, but added they may face serious legal hurdles.

More than 80 years after revolutionary secularists led by Mustafal [sic] Kemal Ataturk abolished the Ottoman Islamic Caliphate, the divisive potential of Islam in Turkey remains high.

At least 20 political parties have been outlawed in the past after the “secular elite … stepped in with coups and judicial decisions against elected governments,” The New York Times reports:

Kemal Anadol, a deputy chairman of the secular party, Republican People’s Party, said the verdict was a triumph of justice and showed that secularism and democracy are “constitutional principles that can’t be separated from one other.”

Mr. Erdogan, whose Justice and Development Party, or AKP, proposed the change, argues the case is a matter of individual rights. All Turks should be able to attend university no matter what they wear or believe, the argument goes.

But the way the party pushed it through Parliament – abruptly, with little public discussion –  angered the secular old-guard and disappointed liberals, who support the changes but wanted them to come with others that would strengthen other rights, like free speech. Some said they seemed to be pursing only changes that would please their constituency, and not the broader range needed to join the European Union.

“AKP is lost in the spell of their own power,” said Mithat Sancar, a law professor in Ankara, Turkey’s capital. “When they want to listen to liberals, they do, but when they don’t, they comfortably ignore them.”

The Constitutional Court decision on whether to ban the AK party is expected later this summer.

Although The New York Times tried to claim otherwise, secular Turks know all too well that the Erdogan and his Islamist AK party (second item) are  trying to bring back Sharia law one headscarf at a time (second item), and they wanted no part of it.

The Muslim “headscarf” is not the cute little babushka that your bubbe tied beneath her chin. Most commonly, it also covers the neck and shoulders completely so that not one strand of hair can peek through. As in every Muslim country that re-introduced them, “headscarf creep” will inevitably lead to more “modest” forms that include the niqab -  a headscarf with an attached veil that covers the face – and the burqa – a headscarf that cascades all the way down to the floor to cover the entire body. This is the “democracy” that editorial writers (male, no doubt) at The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post and The New York Times wished on Turkish women.  

Note: The Stiletto writes about politics and other stuff at The Stiletto Blog, chosen an Official Honoree in the Political Blogs category by the judges of the 12th Annual Webby Awards (the Oscars of the online universe) along with CNN Political Ticker, Swampland (Time magazine) and The Caucus (The New York Times).

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