Bavaria bars public schoolteachersfrom wearing headscarves
11 November 2004, MUNICH - Lawmakers in the staunchly Roman Catholic German state of Bavaria on Thursday adopted legislation barring public schoolteachers from wearing headscarves. The legislation, carried with the majority vote of the conservative Christian Social Union (CSU) party, makes Bavaria the seventh state in Germany to ban headscarves from faculties of public schools. Opposition Social Democrats and Greens voted against the bill, warning that it infringes on the constitutional rights of public se
11 November 2004
MUNICH - Lawmakers in the staunchly Roman Catholic German state of Bavaria on Thursday adopted legislation barring public schoolteachers from wearing headscarves.
The legislation, carried with the majority vote of the conservative Christian Social Union (CSU) party, makes Bavaria the seventh state in Germany to ban headscarves from faculties of public schools.
Opposition Social Democrats and Greens voted against the bill, warning that it infringes on the constitutional rights of public servants to exercise their religious beliefs.
But CSU proponents of the bill argued that it is aimed at combating Islamic radicalisation in the schools.
"It is a given fact that headscarves are blatantly misused by radical Islamic fundamentalists as a political symbol," said a leading CSU official, Bavarian State Cultural Affairs Minister Monika Hohlmeier.
"The law in no way infringes on constitutionally guaranteed freedoms of religion," she said. "In fact, it applies to all symbols that could be interpreted as supporting the oppression of women."
The text of the legislation in fact makes no mention of headscarves. Instead, it bars the wearing or display of "any and all symbols of a potentially radical political nature" by teachers in publicly funded schools.
Critics said the wording clearly singles out Muslims while at the same time permitting Roman Catholic teachers to wear crucifixes or other Christian religious symbols.
Muslim groups vowed to challenge the law in court, although chances of success in overturning the law are expected to be slim in the wake of a precedent-setting ruling earlier this year.
In a far-reaching decision, a federal appellate court in Germany last June upheld a similar state law banning Muslim women from wearing headscarves in publicly funded school teaching jobs.
In handing down the decision, the Federal Administrative Court in Leipzig rejected a lawsuit filed by Afghan-born Fereshta Ludin, who challenged the state law enacted in March in Baden-Wuerttemberg, which borders on Bavaria.
The court found the law was not discriminatory and that lawmakers had been within their rights in adopting what the court termed essentially a dress code.
The Baden-Wuerttemberg law was the first of a spate of new state laws adopted throughout Germany in the wake of a controversial German Supreme Court ruling in September 2003.
In that high court ruling, on an appeal also filed by Ludin, the justices ruled that Baden-Wuerttemberg authorities had no right to bar Ludin from a teaching job solely because she had insisted on wearing a headscarf in the classroom - as there was no law on the issue.
Thus, lawmakers in states up and down Germany quickly moved to close the legal loophole.
Now seven states in Germany have enacted headscarf bans in the wake of the September 2003 landmark supreme court ruling. However, the wording of the laws varies from state to state.
In the city-state of Berlin, for example, the centre-left coalition government has barred city employees from wearing any visible religious symbol.
The Berlin law, adopted by the majority Social Democrats and former East German Communists now known as the Party of Democratic Socialism (PDS) effectively bans the wearing of Muslim headscarves, Christian crosses, Jewish skullcaps and Sikh turbans by school teachers, police officers, firefighters, court officers and municipal office workers.
The law in Baden-Wuerttemberg, where Protestants slightly outnumber Catholics in the Black Forest region of southwestern Germany, permits Catholic nuns to wear habits, crucifixes and other garb associated with Christianity when they teach school. But Muslim teachers are banned from wearing headscarves.
About 2.5 million Turks live in Germany, more than in any other European country outside of Turkey itself. Some 150,000 Turks live in Berlin, representing 5 percent of the total Turkish immigrant population in Europe.
Subject: German news