By IslamOnline.net & Newspapers
Mosque, Hijab in Turkey Secular Bastion
"It is not right to discriminate against people because of what they wear," Baykal said
CAIRO — After celebrating hijab-clad members within its ranks, the Republican People's Party (CHP), one of the major secularism bastion in Turkey, is even planning to build a mosque within its headquarters.
"It would be nice to have a mosque," CHP Secretary General Mesut Deger told the Today's Zaman on Monday, November 24.
"Sometimes my voters pray. I have a seccade [prayer rug] in my room."
The CHP has been making headlines over the past week not for opposing hijab, as it usually does, but for celebrating its new veiled members.
"It is not right to discriminate against people because of what they wear," CHP leader Deniz Baykal has told a ceremony honoring more than 8,000 women in black chadors and headscarves.
"It is not right to make deductions about them based on their attire."
The new change of heart is enjoying the support of the CHP's rank and file.
"This country belongs to all of us," said Avcilar Mayor Mustafa Degirmenci.
"It is wrong to describe the country as scarved or open, covered or uncovered. Our leader has done the right thing."
Kemal Aydın, mayor of İstanbul's Bahçeşehir district, was also relieved.
"We have to be aware of an increasing secular-religious polarization in society," he said.
"Turkey is being dragged fast into a clash. And now, our party leader has announced a new stance.
Criticizing this would only serve those groups who don’t want the best for our country."
Hijab has been banned in public buildings, universities, schools and government buildings in Muslim-majority Turkey since shortly after a 1980 military coup.
Attempts by the ruling Justice and Development Party to ease the hijab restrictions on campus triggered criticism from the secularist elite.
The CHP challenged the constitutional amendments with the Constitutional Court which revoked the changes.
As part of its new tendency, the CHP has also fielded a candidate of a devout Muslim family for Istanbul's conservative and low-income Sultangazi district.
"The AKP sees Sultangazi as a vote depot," CHP candidate Ercan Karabayir told Hurriyet daily.
"They think they can get any candidate elected. Well it is not going to be like that anymore."
The CHP says its new "opening up" policy has already worked with voters.
"Those who have adopted the principles and beliefs of the CHP come and vote," said CHP Istanbul deputy Mehmet Ali Ozpolat.
"We cannot tell people what to wear. This would be right neither politically nor in terms of rights and freedoms."
Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan plans to quit as AKP leader if the party loses in the March local elections.
"I obviously say that I will quit the leadership if we take the second place."
The AKP has succeeded in increasing its support in successive elections since 2002.
Erdogan wants to win both İzmir on the Aegean coast and
Diyarbakır in the southeast, seen as strongholds for the CHP and the pro-Kurdish Democratic Society Party (DTP) respectively.
"If public wants, they take the power from me. I respect this," Erdogan said.