Turkish Women's Magazine Targets the Chaste

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A fashion magazine for the devout but consumption-oriented "türban" women -- it was exactly the sort of niche they had envisioned. For years, successful Muslim women have gone to their own hair and beauty salons and vacationed in luxury hotels exclusively for women. Nowadays, especially deep-pocketed members of the Muslim bourgeoisie are turning up in the same fashionable Istanbul shopping centers that were once reserved for the secular elite. 'Battle Against Nudity'

The old culture war over the headscarf -- which until recently seemed acrimonious enough to bring down the Turkish government -- would seem to have been forgotten. The turban, as the headscarf is known in Turkey, is even omnipresent in the secularly-oriented universities. And it is now taken for granted that Hayrünnisa Gül, the president's wife, always wears a headscarf during state visits.

"There is an Islamic faith, and there is a Muslim lifestyle," Atay explains. "Nowadays every lifestyle has its own magazine: sailors, athletes, hunters, musicians. Only veiled women didn't have one of their own. Until now, that is."

Five-thousand Alâ subscriptions are now sent abroad, including 1,500 to Germany, and the numbers are growing. The magazine is reportedly very popular among devout ethnic Turkish women in Germany. Birer says he can easily imagine coming out with a German Alâ, and that it wouldn't be just for Muslim women. After all, he adds, the "battle against nudity" is of interest to all women.

But first the two young publishers have to address objections, not from the secular camp, but from religious scholars. The people behind Alâ have not understood the concept of "tesettür," one theologian grumbled. A woman's desire to present herself is fundamentally un-Islamic, he claimed -- be it in a bikini or in a headscarf. Muslim women, the theologian continued, should remain submissively in the background.

"That's not our understanding of Islam," says Atay. "We don't believe that women should hide themselves. Even the veiled have a right to stylish fashion."

Translated from the German by Christopher Sultan

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