Religion in the Public and Private Turkish Workplace: The Approach of the Turkish Judiciary
"Turkish Workplace: The Approach of the Turkish Judiciary", in A Test of Faith? Religious Diversity and Accommodation in the European Workplace, K. Alidadi, M.-C. Faoblets and J. Vrielink, (eds.) (Ashgate, 2012)
Posted: 29 Jan 2013
Date Written: August 1, 2012
This paper focuses on the approach taken by the Turkish judiciary to religious symbols in the public and private workplace, with a particular emphasis on the Muslim headscarf. The Chapter begins with a brief overview of the meanings and significance attached to religious dress and symbols, specifically the Islamic headscarf. Turkish secularism, which is the overarching principle that forms the basis of the prohibition of religious symbols in public workplaces, is outlined in section two with reference to the jurisprudence of the Turkish Constitutional Court. Then, rules concerning the appearance of public servants in Turkey are briefly reviewed. I will examine the approach of the Turkish judiciary in the application of these rules with a view to understanding which interests are and are not taken into account in the reasoning of Administrative Courts, by looking into certain key cases. Section three turns to private sector. Due to the lack of case law related to religious symbols in the private sector, this part will touch upon the possible reasons and suggest how the prohibition in the public sector is de facto affecting the private sector.
It is argued that the approach of the Turkish judiciary has been overly restrictive and is, to a great extent, based on a perceived threat against Turkish secularism. Thus, in section four I propose some elements of an alternative approach by the Turkish judiciary. This includes the search for a harmonized interpretation of the principle of secularism and freedom of religion or belief, the problematization of the understanding of religious symbols used by public servants, the headscarf in particular, and the rethinking of the principle neutrality and secularism.
Keywords: Turkey, headscarf, freedom of religion or belief, religious symbols, Secularism in Turkey
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