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U! S! A!….U! S! A! (American University in Turkey Defies Hijab Ban)


A sign of the times…American university in Turkey flouts Turkish ban on headscarves. This article (from the Chronicle of Higher Education) is an apt reminder of that which is exemplary in American society and culture. What an embarrassment for the Turkish secularists. At least the French and Germans will still love them (as long as they don’t move to France or Germany….or think they’re European).

alfred_university_seal.jpgAmerican University in Turkey Says It Will Not Enforce Head-Scarf Ban

An American university is courting controversy in Turkey by allowing female students at its newly opened Istanbul campus to wear head scarves, a public expression of their Islamic faith that is forbidden at universities and government offices throughout the country.

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The new 30-acre branch campus of Alfred University, which opened this month, offers an English-only curriculum that will focus at first on business courses and eventually include a full liberal-arts program.

Wearing head scarves at universities has been a focal point of controversy in Turkey in recent years, and last month Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan inflamed the debate by saying that his government would seek to overturn the ban.

All universities in Turkey, whether public or private, fall under the authority of the Higher Education Council, a staunchly secularist body that has been an unwavering supporter of the head-scarf ban.

Turkish news-media reports in the last week indicate that the council has already taken action against Alfred, by filing a complaint against the university for violating Turkish law. —Aisha Labi

See also: Get that Hijab Away… Turkey’s Secularists Traumatized! (2 UPDATES)

Keep supporting MuslimMatters for the sake of Allah

Alhamdulillah, we're at over 850 supporters. Help us get to 900 supporters this month. All it takes is a small gift from a reader like you to keep us going, for just $2 / month.

The Prophet (SAW) has taught us the best of deeds are those that done consistently, even if they are small. Click here to support MuslimMatters with a monthly donation of $2 per month. Set it and collect blessings from Allah (swt) for the khayr you're supporting without thinking about it.

Musa Maguire is from Milwaukee, Wisconsin and accepted Islam after graduating from college. In 2004-2005, he received a Fulbright grant to study in Egypt, and then spent the following year working at Huda TV, an English-language Islamic satellite channel that broadcasts from Cairo.



  1. Amad

    November 1, 2007 at 9:01 AM

    amazing isn’t it, that we have to get a non-Muslim institute in a Muslim country to defy a ban on a Muslim garb!

    Three cheers for Alfred University in standing up for freedom of religion… for a good American value exported!

  2. Yasir Qadhi

    November 1, 2007 at 9:34 AM

    Great stuff!!

    One thing you gotta admit about Americans: they really understand what it means to be secular. For the folks in Eastern lands, secularism implies fighting against any religiosity, whereas for Americans, secularism implies allowing someone to be as religious as he/she want, as long as they don’t force it down anyone else’s throat.

    In fact, if you try to force people to NOT be religious…well that makes you a stinkin’ Commie!!! And we already got rid of them after the Cold War….

  3. VM

    November 1, 2007 at 10:11 AM

    Awesome. May Allah subhanna wa ta’ala make things easier for the Muslims of Turkey. Ameen. I hope this is just the start and insha’allah our Sisters will be allowed to cover in other Universities and institutions, etc.

  4. Moiez

    November 1, 2007 at 11:31 AM


  5. ...

    November 1, 2007 at 2:16 PM

    Alhamdulillah, every time i think about Turkish sisters, it makes me sooo grateful for being an American =) (of course they will get higher reward for their struggle)

  6. Al Athari

    November 1, 2007 at 3:32 PM

    Allahu Akbar,

    I’m so happy the Muslims are opposing the Fajar, Apostate government of Turkey!

  7. Halah

    November 1, 2007 at 6:24 PM

    Insha’Allah it will be easy for all the Muslim sisters around the world to keep on their hijab.

    [” Fain would they extinguish Allah’s Light with their mouths, but Allah will not allow but that His Light should be perfected, even though the Unbelievers may detest (it). ”]9:32

  8. Galvatron

    November 1, 2007 at 10:56 PM

    Keep the hijab ban!
    Long live Secular Turkey once Greek Christian Anatolia. Constantinople Queen of Cities capital of the Roman Empire is under occupation!
    Better the Apostate Turks than you Islamo-Fascist allies!
    Down with the Islamic-Leftist alliance!

  9. Salik

    November 1, 2007 at 11:07 PM

    Dude you’re a nutcase. This “alliance” is actually the US…so yea…Down with the islamophobes!

  10. Sequoia

    November 2, 2007 at 1:45 AM

    This is a great step taken by Alfred university. The secular/ultra nationalists have long opporessed those women who wish to wear the hijab. When I lived in Turkey, an interesting thing I often heard in discussions about this topic was that the people who were oppossed to the hijab were as much opposed to it on cultural grounds as they are religiously. A rising tide of nationalism is sweeping through the country and many ulra secularized Turks feel the hijab is a threat to arab-ize their country. It is not uncommon to hear that there is “no problem” with the traditional Anatolian headscarf that older women wear. Listen to the complaints aganst the predident Gul’s wife….usually in some reference to her looking “arab”.

    Its also interesting to note that the AK party in Turkey is looked at by these same “secular/nationalists” as an American puppet. Abdullah Gul is refered to as ABD’ullah (with ABD as the Turkish abbreviation to USA). In any case…there is no doubbt that everywhere people should be allowed to follow their religion..and this is a very welcoming sign.

  11. Mujahideen Ryder

    November 4, 2007 at 1:37 PM

    MashaAllah! Allah hu Akbar!

    Thank you Alfred University!

  12. Ahmed

    November 7, 2007 at 9:56 PM

    Many thank for American Uni, and shame on you Turkish Sec. …You won’t be considered European nor Moslems and just keep missing around in between till something happens and mob you from the country

  13. Sequoia

    November 8, 2007 at 2:18 AM

    Another disturbing recent event has been the increase in call to war from the secularists/ultra-nationalists. Ever since before the latest early election, CHP and other secular-nationalist parties have pushed the PKK conflict to the front pages in an attempt to show that AKP is soft on terrorism. The nationalists got the party soo worked up that even the military had to issue the public to be cautious and refrain from over emotion.

  14. sa

    November 10, 2007 at 3:42 AM

    This is sad…

    An institution has to open by non-Muslims in a Muslim country before Muslim women can go to school with hijab.
    It would be great if now the secular turks thought “ok we see how ignorant we’ve been, let’s fix ourselves”, but they’re not thinking that.
    Now Muslims still look backwards and the non-Muslim Americans are the saviors yet again…
    It’s embarrassing…WE should be the ones opening the schools that defy the hijab bans- not them. WE should be watching out for our sisters- not them

    If I were those sisters, ALLAH, I’d be embarrassed that after years of not being able to go to school in a Muslim country, the first place I can go to school at was opened by non-Muslims, and it was because they understood the laws of the government were too ridiculous to follow. I would be wishing that I didn’t have to resort to that..I’d be wishing that it was my brothers and sisters who opened the school and allowed me to attend wearing Hijab while facing a govt. ban and that awful awful publicity…

    which brings me to another point…
    Why would an American establishment go to all this trouble and get this issue riled up? They don’t care about hijab bans…they do care for fame and a nice slap on the face to the Muslims.
    “Hi there, I’m America and I’m here to give you your freedom!”

    I don’t know…maybe I’m being to harsh on us…


  15. Sequoia

    November 11, 2007 at 4:53 PM

    SA – well there are American instititions there (Uskudar American, fr example, eventhough it is a high school) which do enforce the hijab ban. And also, I think you are confusing the Bush Administrtion policies with many AMerican instituitions who do value religious freedom. I believe in this case, the university is taking the right stand to not by hypocritical in its policies.

  16. Sequoia

    November 11, 2007 at 9:19 PM

    One more thing….I don’t think outsiders ever get a true idea of the complexity of Turkey. Many right-wing blogs pointed to the torture and subsequent murder of three Christians in Turkey as more veidence of muslim intolerence and bigotry. Likewise with the murder of a priest in Trabazon as well as Hrant Dink the journalist. But I believe this is completely missing the point of the motivation of the Turkish psyche. Turks are always suspicious of outsiders and have dutifully followed Ataturk’s Turkishification. Armenians aren’t despised beacuse they are christian, but rather that they “stabbed the Turkish nation in the back”. So there is great mistrust amoungst missionaries beacuse they are also viewd as sort of a fifth column. I bring this up, because I do feel it relates to the hijab issue. Rightly or wrongly, Turks feel a threat of gaining arab influence of arab (or some view Wahhabi) . Now there is no doubt that there are many secular/athiest Turks who do oppose the hijab beacuse they are against religion. But there are also many who oppose the hijab beacuse they feel it threatens Turkish identity. Turkish thought is not always coherent to the outsider. It is a widely held belief that AKP is an American puppet (in cooperation with KSA) to weaken turkish identity and the Ataturk legacy.

  17. Sequoia

    November 22, 2007 at 11:56 AM

    Here is an update on the torture and murder of three Turkish christian missionaries in eastern Turkey

    Most people not familiar with Turkey would view case only through religious terms. Muslims torturing and killing 3 Christian missionaries. But that is simplyifing the situation in Turkey. The rising feeling of nationalsim is the main motivation in this case, not the religion of the missionaries. Turks (and by this I mean nationalists) have a particular understanding of what it means to be a Turk and view others with suspicion. The missionaries in this case aren’t hated beacause they are Christian, but rather they are thought to be of a 5th column.
    This I believe is related to the hijab issue because I do feel there are many Turks who are practicing Muslims, but do fear the rise of Arab influence within their political and social world. The hijab becomes a symbol of this to many Turks. To many of us, this seems contradictory, but it is a prevelant notion.

  18. Pingback: » The Forgotten Hijab Ban: “I just couldn’t take it off another time!”

  19. buddhika thambugala

    June 18, 2008 at 11:14 AM

    secularism should have its limits. neither secularism nor religion has right to limit personal freedom. islam fundamentalists in iran have made scarves compulsory in public, while the so-called “secular” fundamentalists in turkey have banned it at public. americans, whose idols are based on freedom and equity shouldnt be bent by either extremisms. so their decision not to ban scarf is highly appreciated by any freedom loving person in the world regardless of race or religion. besides, secularism is something that should come from depth of heart not from force of law. classic example is the u.s society with 10% non-religious population.

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