Vogue for the veiled in Turkey

New magazine caters to pious Muslim women, but both conservatives and secularists are asking whether fashion can coexist with Islam.

The January 2012 cover of Âlâ magazine, which is controversial among secularists and conservative Muslims alike.

• A local, slice-of-life story from a Monitor correspondent.
In Turkey, where Islamic and Western social values collide, what women cover up is often more controversial than what they flaunt.

So when the new monthly lifestyle magazine Âlâ launched last year to cater specially to the tastes of pious Muslim women, it prompted conservatives and secularists alike to ask whether fashion can coexist with Islam.

With glossy pages filled with demurely smiling, stylishly head-scarved young women, Âlâ has been dubbed the “Vogue of the Veiled” by one Turkish liberal newspaper. After six issues, its circulation has increased to 30,000, with some 5,000 subscriptions sent abroad.

While some secularists believe the magazine is evidence of the creeping Islamization of Turkish society, conservative Muslims have claimed it is violating Islamic notions of female modesty by encouraging covered women to beautify themselves.

Although Turkey has been governed by an Islamist-rooted party since 2002, it is still technically illegal for women to wear head scarves at Turkish universities, and they are also banned in a range of public-sector jobs: a legacy of the state-imposed secularism that dominated the country for much of the 20th century.

Âlâ’s editor in chief, Seyma Yol Kara, is less interested in the magazine’s critics than in the millions of head-scarved women who she says have long been “second-class citizens.”

With clothing advice, interviews with successful Muslim women, articles on mental health, and photos of readers, Âlâ is aiming to give them a voice, says Ms. Yol Kara, who herself wears a head scarf.

“We are trying to bring new products and new options to women who wear head scarves and women in whose lives Islam plays an important role,” she says. “I’m happy to be helping women who think like me.”

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