Dec 9, 2005

The Turco-Egyptian hat incident

I was reading this article by Theodore Dalrymple on hats, which led me to this article on the Turco-Egyptian hat incident of 1932, which essentially makes Dalrymple's point: It all starts with the hat.
In his quest for a Yeni Turan or a 'new society', Mustafa Kemal decreed several laws which aimed at changing the norms and traditions of his country. For instance ... the temenah form of greeting (touching one's forehead, lips and heart with the tips of his fingers), once the symbol of imperial obeisance, was no more. It would be substituted with a handshake. Other drastic measures meant to bring Turkey in step with western culture included the outlaw of the bewitching yasmak and the eradication of the ferraji mantle, the bournous and the gandourah. European style of dress had come to displace the sherwals, the shalwahs and the baggy jodhpurs. Turbans and fashionable European hats replaced the veil. Mustafa Kemal was vitually offering women their freedom.

Yet what was considered a most radical reform was the 1926 parliamentary decree abolishing the fez. Henceforth, the Ghazi forbade its appearance anywhere within his new secular state. To Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the fez and the veil were signs of backwardness, inferiority and fanaticism. Whereas in Turkey's not so distant past, anyone sporting a hat other than a fez was considered a Giaour (stranger or one belonging another faith and mode of life) now, western hats had become the rage. To encourage his people to turn away from the fez and adopt the western hat, the Ghazi would appear in public wearing different European headgear. With the power of law, the situation had now been irrevocably reversed.

Just as Ataturk dragged Turkey into the modern world with the abolition of the fez and the veil, the Islamists are trying to turn back the clock with the forced wearing of the veil.

No comments: