May 29, 2008
TURKEY'S CATALOG OF SINS
Religious Authority Warns Women against Perfume, Flirtation
Secular Turks say the government's religious authority has gone too far by advising women not to flirt with strangers or wear perfume outside their homes. The article is expected to further inflame a debate about the role of religion in the secular nation.
Scroll down to also read Scroll down to also read "Secular Turks attack religious council's code for women" and for link to related video Sex warning: 'Women have to be more careful than men'
Keep covered and avoid the perfume: Turkey's highest religious authority warns women not to show their "adornments and figure." (AFP)
Is wearing perfume a sin? Or casting a flirtatious gaze at a man? According to an article recently published on the Web site of Turkey's directorate for religious affairs, Diyanet, it is.
The article, which is drawing criticism in Turkey and raising attention abroad, essentially chalks women up as walking aphrodisiacs and puts the onus on them to cover up and prevent themselves from sexually stimulating men in any way outside their homes.
"Women have to be more careful, since they have stimulants," the article states, according to a report in the Guardian. "The women communicating with strange men should speak in a manner that will not arouse suspicion in one's heart and in such seriousness and dignity that they will not let the opposite party misunderstand them, that they should not show their adornments and figure and that they should cover in a fine manner." It even goes so far as to equate flirtation with adultery, according to critics.
The article also discourages women from wearing perfume. "His highness the Prophet Muhammad did not think kindly of women who put on perfumes outside their homes and go strolling and saw this as immoral behavior," it continues.
The article also reportedly said women should not spend time together with men in private unless married and questioned the virtues of mixed-sex workplaces.
Generally, Diyanet has promoted a moderate form of Islam and the article threatens to further inflame a roaring debate about the role of religion in what is constitutionally a secular state. The Islam-rooted Justice and Development Party of Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan is currently facing a legal challenge in the country's highest court, accused of undermining the secular principles upon which Turkey was founded, and faces the possibility of a ban in the future.
"It's like a comedy," writes Yusuf Kanli, a columnist with the pro-secular Turkish Daily News, "but the article appeared on the Web site of a state institution that is supposed to regulate the practice of Islam in the country according to the teachings (as perceived by the Turkish government) of Islam rather than those of some Islamist orders or brotherhood organizations. … Is this mentality different at all with that of the Taliban that placed Afghan women behind chadors?"
Ataturk, the founder of modern Turkey, established Diyanet in 1924 to ensure that Islam did not interfere with the country's strictly secular government. Although Diyanet has no legal authority, it is highly influential as the custodian of the Muslim faith in the country. It is in charge of the country's 70,000 clerics and is also responsible for appointing Turkey's imams.
London ~~ Thursday May 29 2008
Secular Turks attack religious council's code for women
Robert Tait in Istanbul
Turkish women wear headscraves at a demonstration in Ankara. A powerful state body has urged women to cover up and behave modestly to avoid provoking male sexual desire. Photograph: EPA
View Video Sex warning: 'Women have to be more careful than men' HERE
A powerful state body regulating the role of Islam in Turkey has come under fire over an article on sexual behaviour that equated flirting with adultery and condemned women for wearing perfume.
Secularists and women's groups hit out after the directorate of religious affairs (Diyanet) published the article on its website setting out recommendations for proper sexual conduct.
Invoking the prophet Muhammad, it put the onus squarely on women by urging them to cover up and behave modestly to avoid provoking male sexual desires.
"Women have to be more careful, since they have stimulants," the article stated. "The women communicating with strange men should speak in a manner that will not arouse suspicion in one's heart and in such seriousness and dignity that they will not let the opposite party misunderstand them, that they should not show their ornaments and figure and that they should cover in a fine manner."
On the use of perfume, it continued: "His highness the prophet Muhammad did not think kindly of women who put on perfumes outside their homes and go strolling and saw this as immoral behaviour."
The article said women and men should not be alone together unless married and questioned the role of females in mixed-gender workplaces. It blamed "social and moral" decline in the west for the legalisation of abortion.
The article was widely condemned in the pro-secular media. Yusuf Kanli, a columnist in the English-language Turkish Daily News, said it reflected a "very primitive mindset", adding: "Is this mentality at all different with that of the Taliban that placed Afghan women behind chadors?"
Kizbes Aydin, the head of Cigle Evka2, a female cultural group, said that the recommendations incited violence against women. "They justify the implementation of violence with excuses such as 'she has perfume', or 'she dressed up provocatively'."
The article is especially striking since Diyanet has a reputation for promoting a moderate interpretation of Islam. It is sponsoring a study of the hadiths, the sayings ascribed to Muhammad, with a view to striking out those judged inauthentic or misogynistic.
Diyanet was established in 1924 after the abolition of the Ottoman caliphate by Ataturk to ensure the practice of Islam did not encroach on Turkey's secular constitution. It directly employs more than 70,000 clerics and had an annual budget of around £500m in 2006.