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Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Cassie's Experience

...A discussion with an older woman who identified herself as Muslim but chose not to cover her hair proved particularly illuminating.  Standing outside a shop, she held a cigarette in one hand and wore her hair tucked into her hat, but purely for warmth, as we would learn later.  She appeared neither Muslim, nor, well, not Muslim.  She looked like an ordinary woman, the type of woman one might find anywhere, besides the fact that she spoke exclusively Turkish.  But, as she explained through a translator, she indeed considered herself a Muslim.  She pointed out that she chose not to cover her hair, that it was her decision, but that she felt no pressure one way or another.  She expressed a great deal of respect for Muslim girls who covered their hair, and did not feel like she differed greatly from them.  She acknowledged the possibility that veiled girls might not view her in the same friendly manner, but said she had never been made to feel that way.  Talking to her, one could appreciate a sort of peace that no one happens to mention in all of the articles about the turmoil of the country.  Responding to the question of whether she identifies as a Turk first, or a Muslim first, or a woman first, she revealed that such divides may not be necessary.  She was Turkish, Muslim, and a woman, all at once, and felt no pressure to be any other way.  And this reveals something essential about the Turkish case.  Women matter there, because women matter everywhere.  A cloth wrapped around your head is certainly an expressive sign, but in the end signs are no more than what you make of them.  Women put on the veil in the morning, and take it off at night. Or they don’t.  But underneath all of that hair, hidden or not, is a woman, making her way in a complex world.  The fabric on her head does not define her to herself anymore than it should define her to anyone else...

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