The government of Turkey lifted its decades-long hijab ban in middle and high schools yesterday, about a year after the nation lifted the hijab ban for women working in state and civil occupations. This loosening of restraints on the hijab ban demonstrates the Turkish government’s shifting attitude towards the hijab and in protecting the individual’s rights to freedom of religious expression—though many argue this is a threat to their secular values.
Turkey, a Muslim-majority country, has had an uncomfortable history distinguishing between its religious and secular values in an attempt to modernize and westernize the country—beginning under the founder of modern Turkey Mustafa Kemal Ataturk in 1923. In line with Kemalist ideology, Turkey adopted the role of fashion police and banned the headscarf in public arenas because it was perceived to be backwards and an obstacle to secularization.
But as with all forms of fashion and clothing, the hijab is a piece of cloth that has been transformed into symbol of layered meanings as well as an expression of identity that varies from individual to individual, across Muslim cultures and changes continuously over time. The government holds the power to change and transform the meaning of the hijab to fit their whims and agenda whether it be of empowerment or of backwardness. With the ban, the government embraced a perception of the hijab as a symbol that represents everything that is anti-secular, anti-progressive, anti-modern, and anti-Turkish state.
Most importantly, regulating the hijab not only violates basic human rights to freedom of religion—a modern-day democratic value—but also enhances a negative image of practicing Muslim women in the West despite Turkey being a Muslim-majority country itself.
Obviously the government needs work in the fashion-policing department. If they are going to limit our freedom they might as well do it right! Here are eight horrific fashion trends the government should regulate instead of the hijab:
1. Wearing leggings as pants: Leggings are pants like socks are shoes.
2. Harem Pants: Unless you’re Aladdin nobody needs a flashback to the MC Hammer days
3. Ripped jeans: Did you buy them that way or did you fall on a chainsaw?
4. Ugg Boots: Uggs are Ugg-ly! We keep telling you and you keep buying ’em!
5. Side-shaved hair: This was a mistake, right?
6. Camouflage pants: With those pants we can only hope you blend into your surroundings.
7. Paint-splatter jeans: why? just why?
8. Controversial T-shirts from Urban Outfitters: Distaste requires no explanation.
The world would make much more sense if these awful trends were government regulated instead of the hijab, don’t you think? Or would it be a violation of our right to fashion and expression of identity?