The veil controversy has also hit Germany. Elkin Deligöz, a Turkish parliament member, has come out against wearing the veil in Germany and has received death threats in response. Being Turkish, her statements mean much more. German Muslim leaders came out in Deligöz' support, saying they did not agree with her but stood behind her right to voice her opinion.
German Muslim leaders on Tuesday defended a Turkish-born legislator's right to tell women they should take off their headscarves and condemned death threats against her — although they said they disagreed with her stance.
The Muslim representatives spoke after meeting with Greens party officials, who urged them to decry threats against party legislator Ekin Deligoz, who Greens officials say has been put under guard.
"The Central Council of Muslims strongly condemns the threats and we made it clear that we stand behind Ms. Deligoz," said Mounir Azzaoui, spokesman for the Central Council of Muslims.
"We have a different position regarding the head scarf, but that's not critical in these days. The most important thing is that all of us stand up for the freedom of opinion."
The head scarf issue echoes a recent controversy over Islamic dress in Britain, where former Foreign Secretary Jack Straw said he asked women to remove their veils before coming to see him in his office. It also underlines tension between the secular outlook of many Turkish immigrant women in Germany and more traditional Turkish Muslim ways.
Germany has more than 3 million Muslims, most of them from Turkey.
Five Muslim organizations accepted an invitation to meet on Tuesday with Deligoz and other Green lawmakers, the party said. Its co-leader in parliament, Renate Kuenast, said she wanted to discuss the importance of "behaving with respect toward each other."
Kenan Kolat, chairman of the Turkish Community in Germany, said that "Ms. Deligoz must be allowed to say anything she wants and must not be threatened."
But he said her statements against headscarves risked stirring anti-Islamic prejudices: "Still, it is also true that the public holds many prejudices against Islam and many people connect the head scarf with terrorism," he said. "If you say something like that, you also put at risk social peace."
"Integration cannot happen through assimilation," said Ali Kizilkaya of the Islamic Council, who opposes the call to take off headscarves. But he added: "Plurality also includes freedom of opinion, that one can also criticize Muslims. ... It's important that we show respect for the positions of one another, even if we don't share them."
Deligoz said after the meeting at parliamentary offices in Berlin that "We left with the message that all of us want that freedom of expression in this country is possible and that you can't play religion off against freedom of expression."
Two weeks ago, Deligoz was quoted in Germany's Bild am Sonntag newspaper as arguing that "the head scarf is a symbol of women's oppression."
"I appeal to Muslim women: Arrive in the present day, arrive in Germany — you live here, so take off the head scarf," she added. "Show that you have the same civil and human rights as men."
The Deligoz case follows the decision by Turkish-born lawyer and Muslim women's rights activist Seyran Ates, 43, to close her Berlin law practice, saying she was getting too many threats from the husbands of Turkish women she had represented in divorce and domestic violence cases.
She said Monday that she received a death threat two weeks ago, right after the Bild am Sonntag newspaper printed a critical comment by her on the head scarf debate.
Kuenast has complained to Turkey's ambassador in Berlin of "unacceptable" reactions in Turkish media to Deligoz's comments.
Those included one newspaper report that compared the lawmaker to the Nazis and another that drew a parallel with former Dutch lawmaker Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a prominent critic of Islam.
Kuenast wrote in a letter to the ambassador that Deligoz had been "insulted in writing, by telephone and also in person ... overwhelmingly by Turkish men."
She said Tuesday she has had no response yet from Turkey.
Germany's interior minister, Wolfgang Schaeuble, said it was "absolutely legitimate that a woman who is Muslim herself ... makes this appeal."
"If someone is threatened, then something is not right," he added. "But so long as something is not right, she will of course get police protection."
Faruk Sen, head of the Center for Turkish Studies at the University of Essen, said the extreme reactions against Deligoz come from the margins of the Turkish community.
"People shouldn't condemn Turks per se because of that," he said. "The vast majority stand behind Western values."
Source: IHT (English)