Posted to Religious Diversity News on October 14, 2008
Source: The International Herald Tribune
High school hurt for Havva Yilmaz. She tried out several selves. She ran away. Nothing felt right.
“There was no sincerity,” she said. “It was shallow.”
So at 16, she did something none of her friends had done: She put on an Islamic head scarf.
In most Muslim countries, that would be a nonevent. In Turkey, it was a rebellion. Turkey has built its modern identity on secularism. Women on billboards do not wear scarves. The scarves are banned in schools and universities. So Yilmaz dropped out of school. Her parents were angry. Her classmates stopped calling her.
Like many young people at a time of religious revival across the Muslim world, Yilmaz, now 21, is more observant than her parents. Her mother wears a scarf, but cannot read the Koran in Arabic. They do not pray five times a day. The habits were typical for their generation Â— Turks who moved from the countryside during industrialization.
“Before I decided to cover, I knew who I was not,” Yilmaz said, sitting in a leafy Ottoman-era courtyard. “After I covered, I finally knew who I was.”
While her decision was in some ways a recognizable act of youthful rebellion, in Turkey her personal choices are part of a paradox at the heart of the country’s modern identity.
Turkey is now run by a party of observant Muslims, but its reigning ideology and law are strictly secular, dating from the authoritarian rule in the 1920s of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, a former army general who pushed Turkey toward the West and cut its roots with the Ottoman East. For some young people today, freedom means the right to practice Islam, and self-expression means covering their hair.
They are redrawing lines between freedom and devotion, modernization and tradition, and blurring some prevailing distinctions between East and West.