Secularists are voicing frustration after the Turkish government lifted a ban on headscarves at religious schools. Those in protest of the move believe that officials may be pushing an Islamic agenda, something that would create angst among those seeking to ensure certain church-state separatist values remain in tact.
Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan claims that new changes, including the lift on the veil ban, were ushered in based on public input and reaction. However, his AK Party has been accused by critics of seeking to impose Islamic values through legislation and rule-making, with the change in veiling the latest supposed example. Uniforms, too, will no longer be required.
Secularists fear Erdogan's push for a "religious youth" and education reforms that have heightened the role of faith-based schools may be part of a more sinister intention. Cumhuriyet, a secularist, Turkish newspaper claims that the change is a step in the direction of making the education system more Islamic in nature.
"This will end with chadors," proclaimed one of the newspaper's headline (a chador is a full Islamic cloak that some Islamic women wear).
The education union, Egitim-Sen, was also critical of the amendments that were made.
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"The changes in the clothing regulations are important in enabling us to see the intense degree to which the education system is being made religious," read a statement from the group. "Religious symbols which spread a religious lifestyle in schools and which will have a negative impact on the psychology of developing children should definitely not be used."
Tuesday's change to veiling in religious schools (students can also wear headscarves while learning Koranic lessons on other, non-religious institutions as well) goes into effect in the 2013-2014 school year. Despite claims to the contrary, Erdogan said that he does not have an Islamist agenda and that he is merely enacting the will of his people.
"Let's allow everyone to dress their child as they wish, according to their means," he said on Tuesday. "These are all steps taken as a result of a demand."