Imagine watching your country gradually slip into a theocracy — one universal interpretation of scripture, prayer in school, religious dress codes, women covering up and accepting a scripturally ordained subservient role to men, judges chosen on the basis of the dominant religion, laws and textbooks being rewritten. When the separation of religion and state is violated, a moralistic ruling class that believes they are right and others are wrong sets about reshaping its society.
Seeing this struggle play out in Turkey — a land that first adopted a modern, secular constitution only in 1924 — is dramatic. I can feel the chill sweep across a teahouse when a fundamentalist Muslim man walks by...followed, a few steps behind, by his covered-up wife.
For a traveler, the move to the right is easiest to see in peoples' clothes. As the father of a teenage girl who did her best to dress trendier than her parents allowed, I am intrigued by teenage Muslim girls covering up under both scarves and, I imagine, duress. Sure, they're covered from head to toe. But under their modest robe, you know many wear chic clothes and high heels.
Throughout Islam, scarves are widely used both as tools for modesty and as fashion accessories. In a fine silk shop, I asked a young woman to demonstrate scarf-wrapping techniques. She happily showed off various demure styles. I asked her to demonstrate how to turn one of her scarves into a conservative religious statement. It took some convincing before she obliged. She tied the scarf under her chin and around her face, and then, with an extra fold across the forehead, suddenly she became orthodox. The power of that last fold gave me goose bumps. She took it off with a shudder.
About This Entry
You are reading "Turkey's Troubling Drift toward Fundamentalism", an entry posted on 06 January 2010 by Rick Steves.