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Turkish scarf ban upheld

Turkey's top court ruled Thursday that Islamic head scarves violate secularism and cannot be allowed at universities, deepening a divide between the country's Islamic-oriented government and secular institutions.

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's government had tried to allow the scarves at universities as a matter of personal and religious freedom.

But the Constitutional Court verdict said constitutional amendments that were passed by Parliament in February went against secularism.

The head scarf issue is an explosive one in Turkey, where the government is locked in a power struggle with secular groups that have support from the military and other state institutions.

The verdict is likely to bode ill for the government. Turkey's chief prosecutor is seeking to disband the ruling party on grounds that it is “the focal point of anti-secular activities” in a separate case at the Constitutional Court. The prosecutor – who has also asked that Erdogan and other party officials be banned from politics for five years – has cited attempts to allow head scarves at universities as a case in point.

Many see the head scarf as an emblem of political Islam and consider any attempt to allow it in schools as an attack against modern Turkey's secular laws.

There was no immediate comment from the government. .