Opinion: Veto of Education Bill a Setback to Religious Freedom and Equal Opportunity

June 6, 2004

Source: The New York Times


On June 6, 2004 The New York Times ran an editorial on the recent veto of an education bill in Turkey that would have "grant[ed] graduates of religious high schools equal access to the nation's secular universities." The editorial board writes, "The veto is a setback to religious freedom and equal opportunity in Turkey, preconditions for a flourishing democracy. That said, the debate over education reform is itself encouraging as it engages the central problem of Turkish democracy � how to build an inclusive secular state when the majority's religion, as interpreted and practiced in much of the world, does not recognize a separation of mosque and state. The education bill was passed by the conservative, Islamist-leaning majority in Turkey's Parliament, in power since 2002. It was opposed by Turkey's staunchly secular elite, a group that includes the military and has long dominated virtually all walks of Turkish life. This elite fears that religiously trained university graduates may become a farm team for conservative, even fundamentalist, political parties. But in their fear, they run the risk of undermining Turkey's democracy. More secular education, not less, is the best protection from fundamentalism."