Islam majority shocked at headscarves ruling

July 9, 2004

Opponents of restrictions on religious dress in Turkish universities are to continue their opposition despite last week's European Court of Human Rights ruling that Turkey has the right to enforce a ban on headscarves.

The court rejected an appeal by medical student Leyla Sahin, who said the ban violated her freedom of religion. She has been barred from Istanbul University since 1998. Thousands of students have been banned since the restriction was enforced six years ago.

But the decision was a disappointment to the ruling Islamic AK party. The Government had hoped that a legal defeat would open the door to lifting the ban.

It backed down from an attempt to lift the ban after protests led by the secular higher education authority Yok and the army.

Yok member Aysel Celiker said the European Court decision resolved the headscarf problem in Turkey and European Union countries - France and Germany face opposition over the banning of headscarves in education.

France passed legislation in May to ban the wearing of "obvious religious signs" in schools. But while it affects university lecturers, who will not be permitted to wear religious symbols at work, students will be allowed to wear religious dress on condition the garments do not hamper them when carrying out their studies.

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