eurel     Données sociologiques et juridiques sur la religion en Europe et au-delà


  • November 2005 : Decision of the European Court of Human Rights

On 10 November 2005, the Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights delivered its final judgement in the case of "Leyla Sahin versus Turkey". Leyla Sahin is a young Turkish national of 22 years who wears the Islamic headscarf. Her complaint against Turkey was based on Article 9 of the European Convention on Human Rights which concerns freedom of religion. Miss Sahin was unable to continue her studies at the Medical faculty of the University following a circular refusing students with beards and those wearing the Islamic headscarf access to class. The Grand Chamber rejected the complaint, noting that this interference in Miss Sahin’s exercise of her right to manifest her religion was founded on the principles of secularism and equality.
This judgement sparked raging debate in Turkish political and social circles. In fact, the current political power held by the Justice and Development Party (AKP) (an offshoot of the bigger Islamic political movement the Millî Görüş, but which has since distanced itself from them), launched a campaign for the lifting of the ban on the Islamic headscarf in Universities. And so, maybe for the first time in the history of the ECHR, a Government was looking forward to its own sentence, hoping that it could be used afterwards as indisputable reference in the abrogation of the ban on the Islamic headscarf. The day after the judgement was published, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan accused the ECHR of not having consulted with experts in Islamic law on the issue whereas this was regularly done for issues bordering on Christianity. This mention of the authority of the "ulemas" immediately sparked furious reactions from Turkish secular circles. They accused the Government of digressing from the principle of secularism enschrined in Article 2 of the Turkish Constitution - one of the articles not open to modification. Since then the Prime Minister has softened his tone, while he has maintained the idea that this judgement would not prevent future changes to the law.

See the judgement of 10 November 2005

  • Increasing debates on religious matters

The November 2002 elections ended up with the delegation of the "National Vision" movement (Millî Görüş, founded by Necmettin Erbakan in the 1960s) gaining power for the first time. Consequently, religious debates became hotter than ever. The leaders of AK, the ruling party, distanced themselves from this historical movement of political Islam. They presented themselves as "democrat Muslims" like democrat Christians in western countries. The Turkish intelligentsia, the military and the proponents of the reforms advanced by Mustafa Kamel accuse them of dissimulating their real objectives and claim not to believe their revolutionary discourse.
Intense debates revolve around the role of the army in politics (perceived by the supporters of Kamel’s reforms as a guarantee for secularism), forbidding the Islamic headscarf in primary, secondary schools and in higher education, schools of Imams and preachers (Imam hatip okullari) and their role in public education.

D 25 novembre 2005    ASamim Akgönül

CNRS Unistra Dres Gsrl

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