The leader of Turkey's Islamic-oriented government on Wednesday defended a measure allowing Islamic head scarves in universities and turned his fire on newspapers for printing photographs of scantily-clad women.
Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan rejected criticism from the secular establishment and media that women who did not cover their hair might come under pressure to do so after parliament voted Saturday to lift a decades-old ban on wearing head scarves on campus. "You are the ones who print pictures of totally naked women in newspapers against this societys moral values. Have we interfered with that?" he said.
Erdogan said secular women will remain free to dress in the way they like. "We guarantee their lifestyle," he said.
President Abdullah Gul, an observant Muslim, must still sign off the law lifting the campus head scarf ban, which he is expected to do within two weeks.
Erdogans government says the measure is aimed at expanding democracy and freedoms as part of Turkeys EU membership bid. But secularists are suspicious about the real agenda of Erdogan, who tried to criminalize adultery before being forced by the European Union to step back.
Critics have claimed that government is giving priority to issues that interest the countrys observant Muslims and delaying reforms related to free speech that would help the countrys troubled bid to join the EU.
The secular establishment reacted furiously to Saturdays vote and accused the government of raising the profile of Islam. Baykal's CHP said the bill violated an article of the constitution that protects secularism and would appeal to the
Erdogan said the ban had meant young Muslim women were forced to remove their traditional head scarves at campus entrances. Some resort to wearing wigs to class to cover their heads. The government was also expected to amend laws to specify what type of head covering will be allowed on campus to ensure that students do not attend classes in full-length Islamic garb called chadors or burqas.