Istanbul: Strong reaction to a plan for a women-only park in Istanbul has focused attention on the divisions between Turkey's secularists and supporters of the ruling AK Party, which has its roots in political Islam.

Critics of the plan see it as the latest sign that the ruling party is trying to push through an Islamist agenda, but female voters in the district yesterday said they loved the idea.

News that the AK Party-run municipality of Bagcilar was planning to create a park exclusively for women, reported in the local press this week, prompted a fierce reaction among secular Turks who say the party is trying to give Islam a greater role in public life.

The controversy reached parliament on Thursday, when opposition lawmaker Bihlun Tamayligil said: "Can you reconcile the principles of the Republic with applying the segregation of men and women?"