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Turkish PM calls for end to headscarf ban at state universities

[JURIST] Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan [IHT backgrounder] Tuesday urged the government of Turkey to remove the current ban on the wearing of headscarves at state universities [JURIST report], saying that the ban effectively denies some Muslim women access to higher education. Erdogan, whose Muslim-rooted AK Party promised a new constitution [JURIST report] after winning elections earlier this year, said that the headscarf issue is a top priority. Opponents say that the ban on headscarves is necessary to protect the separation of religion and state.

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. Last year, 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. BBC News has more.

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