Monday, November 8, 2010

An academic book about Hijab

With my sister Merve Kavakci

Today I would like to share with you the work of one of my role model's. Most of you already know her or of her. She is one of the strongest women I know, and a heroine to millions.  She is also the international symbol of Hijab...

My sister Merve Kavakci's newest book is now available for purchase. Her book, Headscarf Politics: A Postcolonial Reading in Turkey is a very interesting read about the Hijab Ban in Turkey.

It is an inspirational story of how far Muslim women can go to fight for Hijab! If you think you have struggles, you will realize you have none till you read this book. Just look at the cover. This is a picture taken in front of a University where this student wearing hijab is held by Police Officers and is physically prevented from entering her school. As if that is not enough, her headscarf is being snatched from her head!

Headscarf Politics is available on Amazon as well as Barnes&Noble and Borders

I also wanted to share with you one of my sister's most recent interviews with George Washington University.

A Voice for Religious Freedom

Ousted from Turkey’s parliament for wearing a headscarf, Elliott School's Merve Kavakci is an advocate for the rights of Muslim women.

Oct. 21, 2010

By Rachel Muir

Merve Kavakci has paid a high price for her convictions.

In 1986, she was forced to leave medical school in her native Turkey because she refused to remove her headscarf.

The country bans wearing headscarves in public institutions, including schools and government offices.

And, in 1999, after she was elected to the Turkish parliament, she was not allowed to take her seat—again because she wore a headscarf.

When she tried to take the oath of office, other parliamentarians chanted “get out” and booed her. She was labeled an “agent provocateur” by the president.

Within weeks, she was stripped of her Turkish citizenship and banned from politics for a period of five years. Her political party, the Virtue Party, was also disbanded.

Even though 99 percent of Turks are Muslim and Turkish public opinion supports ending the ban, the country’s leadership adheres to a rigid secularism, she says. “The headscarf is considered a backward symbol, a symbol of the past in Turkey.”

The incident in parliament caused an international outcry. Dr. Kavakci took her case to the European Court of Justice and, in 2007, won against Turkey. Her citizenship has been reinstated.

She’s since earned a Ph.D. in political science from Howard University and a master’s from Harvard University and is on the faculty of the Elliott School of International Affairs.

Academics runs in the family for Dr. Kavakci, whose parents were both educators. She grew up in an “educated, devout” family in Istanbul.

She originally came to the U.S. with her parents and two sisters in the late 1980s after leaving medical school. “It was impossible for me to continue to go to school in Turkey and to be a committed Muslim as I choose to be,” she says. Her mother had left her job as a German literature professor because of similar discrimination.

They ended up in Dallas, where Dr. Kavakci’s father worked as the religious leader for the central mosque. “It was quite a culture shift,” she says. But, she adds, in the United States her family hasn’t experienced any kind of discrimination. “We have always been respected.”

Dr. Kavakci earned a degree in computer engineering at the University of Texas at Dallas.

She returned to live in Turkey in the early 1990s. She had young children and wanted them to experience Turkish culture firsthand.

There, Dr. Kavakci started volunteering with the Virtue Party, an Islamist political party. She rose to be the party’s head of foreign affairs. In 1999, Dr. Kavakci ran for parliament representing one of Istanbul’s largest districts. She won the election, becoming the youngest member elected to parliament at age 30.

Except she wasn’t allowed to take office.

Amid the jeers that day—May 2, 1999—the then-prime minister demanded that she be “put in her place.” After several attempts to take her oath of office, she left the parliament building stunned.

“I expected some kind of turmoil or discomfort, but nothing like what happened,” she says.

The headscarf she wore that day was later exhibited at the U.S. Congress as a sign of religious freedom. She has also been named among the 500 most influential Muslims worldwide and recognized as a “woman of excellence” by the NAACP.

She has addressed the British Parliament House of Lords, United Nations Commission on Human Rights, U.S. Congress and lectured at universities across the world.

Did she ever consider removing her headscarf?

“No,” she says. “It’s part of who I am. I justify my existence first and foremost as a subject of God.” Women shouldn’t be forced to wear a headscarf, but they should have the freedom to choose, she stresses.

In a book to be released next week, Headscarf Politics in Turkey: A Postcolonial Reading, Dr. Kavakci examines the headscarf issue from the perspective of Turkish women who want to cover their heads. The book has been nominated for a Prose Award.

While she is based in D.C., Dr. Kavakci travels to Turkey frequently and writes a column for the Turkish daily Yeni Akit on “anything and everything.”

She now officially goes by the name Merve Kavakci Islam after a recent marriage but says “my story is still entrenched in minds as the Kavakci story.”

And she has a message for the Turkish government on behalf of those advocating for greater freedom of religious expression. “We are here and here to stay,” she says.


  1. wow that sounds like an incredible story! i'm looking forward to reading it:]

  2. I loved this post but what I like even better is being able to see a pic of two sisters in all their glory. I like seeing Merve in her UGS looking so chic and I love your boots and bracelets.

    I think a lot of readers might benefit from a post about staying confident in hijab. Right now there is so much discrimination out there for hijabees to deal with. Tips like how to handle or respond to ignornance could help so many sisters inshallah.

    I think your both in the unique position to really mentor women on this issue. I say this because it's something lacking especially for revert sisters who may have no one in their life like a sister or mother to encourage them on with hijab. I'm a revert of 15 years!

  3. MashaAllah..very inspirational...I wish I would be as strong...ALhamdulillah, I'm living in a country in which the majority are Muslims and we are allowed to practice our own beliefs...InshaAllah, i'll buy the book...=)

  4. Thank you N.A. and Daughter of Yasin for your wonderful comments.

    To revert of 15 years. Thank you so much. This is why we have the blog! So we can share and grow together as sisters in Islam! We also have eachother to learn from. We will definitely write about our experiences as hijabis living in different cities and countries and how to handle harsh situations.

    Lots of love to all our readers and thank you all for your comments!

  5. ahha ı was saıd after askıng u sıster Elıf if u can help me to get further ınformation to grab dat book n ı concided with it over here..

    yippueeee ınshallah ı wıll book ıt soon n ı m sure ı will enjoy reading..
    yes MERVE KAVAKÇI is a great rolemodel for muslim girls faced this banned since 1999 sadlyı m among those victims...but verily ı feelhonor n happines in my bottom heart for disladies existence on eart....

    KEEP İT UP...

    love u all

  6. She is truly inspirational. I can't stop my tears every time I watch the way she was kicked out of the Parliament.

    I was actually looking for an interesting book to read during Christmas break so I'll definitely try to read this one :)

    Lots of Salams

  7. Thanks B @ Modest Closet. You have to see the video of her new book. I'll post it soon!