[JURIST] Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan [IHT backgrounder] on Wednesday called for the government of Turkey to lift a ban on women wearing headscarves [JURIST report] in universities and public offices, urging the government not to wait for a proposed constitutional amendment to pass, according to a report [in French] from the Anadolu news agency. Wednesday's remarks followed a similar statement last September when Erdogan urged the Turkish government to remove the ban, saying that the ban effectively denies some Muslim women access to higher education [JURIST report]. Though Erdogan says lifting the headscarf ban is solely about granting individual liberty, Turkish secularists believe Erdogan's insistence on removing the ban is a political statement against secular principles. Erdogan has made the headscarf issue a top priority since his Muslim rooted AK Party won elections last year and promised a new constitution [JURIST report]. Opponents say the ban on headscarves is necessary to protect the separation of religion and state. AP has more.
Traditionally worn by Muslim women, headscarves and other forms of religious dress [JURIST news archive] are banned from many public places in modern Turkey, a majority Muslim country despite official secularism. In 2006, a Turkish court acquitted [JURIST report] retired archaeologist Muazzez Ilmiye Cig [personal website] of charges of insulting religion after postulating in her book that headscarves were originally worn before the founding of Islam by ancient Mesopotamian priestesses who initiated young men into sex. The case also drew criticism from international archaeological associations [IAA appeal] and from the European Union, which had warned Turkey that its laws infringing freedom of expression may delay its entry into the global body.