Germany paves way for hijab ban

Germany's highest court has ruled that individual states may pass new legislation to outlaw religious dress in public schools.

    Her head may be covered - but her mind is not ... Fereshta Ludin argues the hijab is compatible with democratic values

    The decision is effectively a green light for the states to ban the Islamic headscarf, or hijab, in educational establishments. 

    It comes a few days after the French prime minister said there was no place for the hijab in French schools. 

    And it also follows the recent explusion of a Canadian Muslim teenager from a school in Quebec for wearing a headscarf.

    However, the Karlsruhe court also 

    ruled on Wednesday that a regional state was wrong to ban a teacher

    from wearing a veil in the classroom.

    Religious obligation

    In a long-awaited decision on freedom of expression and

    religious neutrality, the court

    overturned a lower court's ruling that

    Baden-Wuerttemberg was justified in refusing to hire a

    Muslim teacher who insisted on wearing a headscarf.

    The teacher, Fereshta Ludin,

     had fought her way to the highest tribunal

    to win the right to work in public schools with her head covered

    according to her religious beliefs.

    Baden-Wuerttemberg had argued a teacher with a headscarf

    violated "the strict neutrality of public schools in religious

    issues" and could have undue influence on impressionable young

    children.

    But the court ruled

    that states must find "arrangements acceptable for

    everyone" in striking a balance between religious freedom and

    neutrality in schools. 

     

    It said states were within their rights to determine that

    headscarves and other religious symbols should be outlawed in the

    classroom.

    Religious influence

    But it added the issue was too contentious to be decided on an ad

    hoc basis and required a legal framework.

    The headscarf worn by some Muslim women has long been

    considered normal in Germany ...

    In the debate on the Muslim headscarf, this piece of cloth is

    often a surface on which to project fears, anxieties and hasty

    generalisations"

    Marieluise Beck,

    German immigration, refugees and integration spokeswoman 

    The court ruled it was possible, although not scientifically

    proven, that children could be influenced by the religious dress of

    their teachers, provoking conflicts with parents.

    Following the verdict, the Central Council of Muslims in Germany blasted the decision

    as opening the door for states to issue blanket bans on teachers

    wearing headscarves in schools.

    "That would be a severe action against Muslims," council

    chairman Nadim Elias said, adding that women

    wearing headscarves had become part of "everyday life" in Germany.

    Ludin today works at an Islamic school in the Berlin district of

    Kreuzberg, which has a large Turkish Muslim population.

    Democratic values

    She argued

    in the case that her religious beliefs posed no threat to Western

    values.

    "I consider religion part of my identity," the 31-year-old told

    the court at the first hearing in June.

    "So are democratic values," she added.

    Marieluise Beck, the federal government's

    immigration spokeswoman, refugees and integration, had been a vocal supporter of

    Ludin's case.

    "The headscarf worn by some Muslim women has long been

    considered normal in Germany," she said in a statement.

    "In the debate on the Muslim headscarf, this piece of cloth is

    often a surface on which to project fears, anxieties and hasty

    generalisations," she added.

    SOURCE: AFP


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