Magazine August 16, 2010, Issue

Ban the Burqa

Women wearing niqabs and hidjabs wait at a bus station in Marseille April 26, 2010. The French government has announced a plan to ban the wearing of the full veil burqa from the streets of France. (Jean-Paul Pelissier/Reuters)
To do so is an offense to liberty; not to do so is a greater one

Istanbul – I moved here five years ago. In the beginning, I was sympathetic to the argument that Turkey’s ban on headscarves in universities and public institutions was grossly discriminatory. I spoke to many women who described veiling themselves as an uncoerced act of faith. One businesswoman in her mid-30s told me that she began veiling in high school, defying her secular family. Her schoolteacher gasped when she saw her: “If Atatürk could see you now, he would weep!” Her pain at the memory of the opprobrium she had suffered was clearly real.

Why had she decided to cover herself? I asked. As

Claire Berlinski — Berlinski is a journalist who lives in Istanbul. She is the author of Menace in Europe: Why the Continent’s Crisis Is America’s, Too, and There Is No Alternative: Why Margaret Thatcher Matters.

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