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Turkey Gov’t, Court Clash on Head Scarves

February 12, 2006

ISTANBUL, Turkey (AP) _ A teacher who wore a head scarf outside of classes should not be promoted, Turkey’s high court has ruled, a decision condemned Saturday by the Islamic-rooted government.

Under Turkish law, women are not allowed to enter schools and other public buildings wearing head scarves. Even wives of ministers are excluded from government functions and formal state dinners because they wear head scarves.

The ruling Justice and Development Party, which has its roots in the Islamic movement, has made no secret of its desire to lift the ban on head scarves.

The teacher, Aytac Kilinc, removed the scarf each day while teaching, but the Council of State, Turkey’s highest administrative court, said she was setting a bad example for young people and violated the secular principles of the Turkish state.

The court said it objected to promoting her because she wore a head scarf outside of school.

The teacher said she will appeal the decision to the European Court of Human Rights.

Around 99 percent of Turks are Muslims, but the country’s secular establishment, including the courts and the military, has sought for decades to restrict Islamic influence, which some political leaders view as an obstacle to Western-style modernization.

``As the prime minister of a country where freedom prevails, I condemn the decision,″ Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Saturday.

Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul echoed the prime minister’s views.

``This understanding, as you know, is the philosophy of authoritarian, dictatorial regimes,″ he said. ``This is a step contrary to the continuing democratization of Turkey.″

Cabinet minister Kursad Tuzmen said the ban would be lifted in time. ``These kinds of problems always happen in developing countries,″ he said. ``When we reach the level of a developed country, these things will be lifted on their own.″

In Europe, assimilating Muslim students is a sensitive political issue. In 2004, France banned ``conspicuous religious symbols″ such as head scarves from state schools. Britain allows individual schools to decide what form of dress is appropriate.

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