M.Cig in court..


Academic faces trial over headscarf article


From correspondents in Istanbul, Turkey

October 19, 2006 02:16am

Article from: Agence France-Presse


AN eminent 92-year-old Turkish archaeologist is to go on trial for inciting religious hatred because she angered Islamist circles with a scientific paper saying that the use of headscarves by women dated back to pre-Islamic sexual rites.


Muazzez Ilmiye Cig, who devoted her career to studying the Sumerians, the first known urban civilisation dating from the 4th millennium BC, is to appear in court on November 1 in Istanbul, her editor Ismet Ogutucu said.


In a book published last year, Cig said the headscarf - a controversial issue in Turkey - was first worn by Sumerian priestesses initiating young people into sex, but without prostituting themselves.


A lawyer from the western city of Izmir took offence and filed a complaint against Cig, resulting in a prosecutor charging both her and her publisher with “inciting hatred based on religious differences”.


If convicted, the two risk up to three years in jail.


Apart from her formidable academic career, Cig is a staunch defender of mainly Muslim Turkey's strictly secular political system.


She recently wrote to Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's wife Emine, calling on her to discard her Islamic headscarf and set an example to young people.


“She can wear whatever she likes at home, but as the wife of the prime minister, she cannot wear a cross or the headscarf,” Cig said in an interview published Monday in the popular daily Vatan.


The Islamic-style headscarf is viewed by secular Turks as a symbol of political Islam and is banned by law in public offices and universities.


The issue has polarised Turkish society, particularly since Mr Erdogan's Islamist-rooted Justice and Development Party swept to power in 2002 with an end to the headscarf ban high on its list of electoral promises - one it has so far been unable to keep.


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