ANKARA, Turkey - Turkey's top court ruled yesterday that Islamic head scarves violate secularism and cannot be allowed at universities, deepening a divide between the country's Islamic-oriented government and the country's secular institutions.
Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's government tried to allow the scarves at universities as a matter of personal and religious freedom.
But the Constitutional Court said the constitutional amendments passed by parliament in February went against constitutionally mandated 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 bodes ill for the government. In a separate case at the Constitutional Court, Turkey's chief prosecutor is seeking to disband the ruling party on grounds that it is "the focal point of anti-secular activities." The prosecutor has cited attempts to allow head scarves at universities as a case in point.
While most Turks are Muslim, many of them oppose the head scarf as an emblem of political Islam. Secularists feared that lifting the ban at universities would create pressure on all female students to cover themselves.
Bekir Bozdag, a senior lawmaker of the ruling party, said, "The Constitutional Court has overstepped its power and interfered in democracy."
"However," he added, "this verdict is binding and will be obeyed."
The court's 11 judges voted 9-2 to annul the amendments, the state-run Anatolia news agency reported. At least seven votes would be required to disband the party.
A brief statement from the court said the amendments were annulled because they were in violation of articles of the constitution, including one that states "the Turkish Republic is a secular state" and another that says altering the secular nature of the state "cannot even be proposed."