Mevlude Alic’s high school years in Turkey started with a daily act of humiliation.

In the women’s bathroom of her school, Alic gathered with other students and teachers to remove their headscarves, in accordance with Turkey’s ban on religious covering in public classrooms. The act contradicted a central tenet in the Quran that woman should dress modestly when outside their homes.

So when it came time for college, Alic made the hardest decision of her young life. The 17-year-old left her family and friends in Turkey and moved to Clifton, where she could study and follow her religious customs.

“These bad rules were killing me,” said Alic, as she walked through the campus of Bergen Community College in a light blue scarf on Friday. “That’s why I came here. If I would stay in Turkey, I would have to (take off) my scarf.”

Every year, Turkey’s ban on the hijab, a headscarf worn in accordance with Islam, drives women to leave their homes for American colleges, including those in North Jersey. But that might change after the country passed constitutional reforms last week that end the ban. . .

The issue has also sparked strong feelings among the thousands of Turks living in North Jersey. According to the latest Census figures, 2,300 people of Turkish ancestry lived in Passaic County in 2000.

Secular Turks living here fear the country’s Islamic ruling party has pushed the country to become more religious. They also worry women will come under pressure to cover their heads.

Religious Turks and human rights advocates support the development as a move toward freedom of expression. For years, the ban has forced women to travel abroad for their educations, wear wigs to classes or simply not go to school. Now, the shift has inspired Turks living here to contemplate their futures. (MORE)


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