A new survey indicates Turkish people support secular democracy

January 09, 2014, Thursday/ 18:27:00/ TODAY'S ZAMAN

A recent survey titled “The Birthplace of the Arab Spring: Values and Perceptions of The Tunisian Public in a Comparative Perspective” conducted by University of Michigan's Institute for Social Research in seven Muslim-majority countries (Tunisia, Egypt, Iraq, Lebanon, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and Turkey), indicated that large majority of the Turkish people expressed favorable attitudes toward the secular democratic politics. The survey also indicated that Tunisians, along with Lebanese and Turkish respondents are much less conservative (or are more liberal) than the Egyptian, Iraqi, Pakistani and Saudi publics.

The research also revealed that Tunisians, along with Lebanese and Turkish citizens favor gender equality more than citizens from the other four countries. According to the survey, Tunisians (56 percent) and Turks (52 percent) are most supportive of individual choice in terms of recognizing a woman's right to dress as she wishes when compared to the Lebanese (49 percent), Saudis (47 percent), Iraqis (27 percent), Pakistanis (22 percent) and Egyptians (14 percent).

The survey also revealed that a great majority of Tunisian as well as Turkish, Lebanese and Iraqi respondents support secular politics; between nearly 70 percent and 80 percent strongly agree or agree that their country would be a better place if religion and politics were separated. Ninety percent or more of these respondents believe that a democratic political system is the best way to govern their country.

Further more, while only 38 percent of the Tunisian respondents thought that an Islamic government was the best way to govern, this figure was higher than the Lebanese, Pakistani and Turkish percentages but lower than that of the Egyptians and Iraqis.

Perhaps reflecting the recent developments in Egypt, 71 percent of the Egyptian respondents favored military rule, while only 35 percent of Tunisians favored such a system. However, the corresponding figures for the Iraqis, Lebanese, Pakistanis and Turks were much lower, between 10 percent and 25 percent.  

The research also indicated that the large majority in these countries tends to prefer that a woman completely cover her hair when in public, but not necessarily her face. According to the survey, only in Turkey and Lebanon do more than one in four think it is appropriate for a woman not to cover her head at all in public. Most respondents said that a white hijab, which completely covers a woman's hair and ears is the most appropriate form of dress when in public; 57 percent of respondents in Tunisia, 52 percent in Egypt, 46 percent in Turkey and 44 percent in Iraq. In Iraq and Egypt a black hijab that covers the hair and ears in a more conservative way was the second most popular choice.

However the survey also indicates that in several countries it is also acceptable for a woman to not cover her hair in public. While a third (32 percent) of Turks take this view, 15 percent of Tunisians hold this opinion and nearly half (49 percent) in Lebanon believe it is acceptable for a woman to appear in public without a head covering.

The survey concludes that while many respondents prefer that women dress conservatively, 56 percent of Tunisians, 52 percent of Turks and 49 percent of the Lebanese respondents believe that women should be able to decide for themselves what to wear.


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