AP, Aug. 17, 2002
JAMES C. HELICKE
ISTANBUL, Turkey (AP) – Hafize Erdogan, a devout Muslim, proudly sports her new blue swimsuit – a full-body outfit that covers her arms down to her wrists, her legs to her ankles and even much of her head.
The 30-year-old mother of two said she bought the suit so she could swim with her family while also observing religious rules about modesty.
Erdogan is evidence of a growing trend in Turkey, where devoutly religious consumers are looking to combine their beliefs with Western pastimes.
“Islamic circles have traditionally understood beaches as something sinful,” said Murat Cemrek, who teaches sociology at Ankara’s Bilkent University. “But Islamic circles have become modernized. They’ve got money. They want to go to the beach and keep their Islamic values.”
Bathing suits are only part of Turkey’s flourishing Islamic market. There are also Islamic camping sites, spas and beach resorts that segregate men and women. Caprice Hotel on the Aegean Sea coast, for example, advertises “a modern vacation complex … where the sound of prayer is heard five times a day.”
Erdogan’s $25 bathing suit includes a headscarf, a long-armed top and full-length pants. It fits loosely so as not to show off the outlines of her body and is made of a synthetic material that dries quickly. It features a design that looks like denim solid with yellow shooting stars.
With all that fabric, the suits still aren’t perfect for swimming.
“Water gets inside and it sticks to you,” Erdogan said. “But I don’t have any other choice.”
In the past, religious women in Turkey either didn’t go to the beach or wore regular street clothing into the water. Most women at beaches in secular Turkey wear Western-style bathing suits.
The top company producing Islamic bathing suits, Hasema, says it sold 25,000 bathing suits last year and can’t produce them quick enough to keep pace with demand. The company exports to Egypt, North America, England, and Australia.