German headscarf bans violates rights, group says

27th February 2009, Comments 1 comment

The Islamic headscarf has been the subject of heated political debate in Germany, home to three million Muslims and the biggest Turkish community outside Turkey.

Berlin -- Laws banning female teachers from wearing the Islamic headscarf in parts of Germany violate the rights of Muslim women, according to a report published Thursday by Human Rights Watch (HRW).

The ban, in force in half of the 16 German states, "discriminates against Muslim women, excluding them from teaching and other public sector employment on the basis of their faith," the report said.

HRW said countries that forbid the wearing of the headscarf, or hijab, violate women's rights just as much as nations that force women to wear it.

"The measures effectively force women to choose between their employment and the manifestation of their religious beliefs, violating their right to freedom of religion and equal treatment," the New York-based HRW said.

The Islamic headscarf has been the subject of heated political debate in Germany, home to three million Muslims and the biggest Turkish community outside Turkey.

Following a series of court cases, the Federal Constitutional Court ruled it was up to Germany's states to decide their policy, prompting an even split among the 16 regions.

"The regulations are not abstract concerns,” said HRW. “The restrictions have a profound effect on women's lives.”

Female teachers refusing to remove their headscarf have been reprimanded and in some cases dismissed, the report said, citing testimony from dozens affected by the ban.

"To renounce the headscarf is very difficult,” said one woman identified in the report as Rabia. “On the first day I 'disguised' myself in the school toilet. When a colleague spoke to me, I broke down in tears. My son asked me, 'what is more important, Allah or work?' I answered him that it is complicated."

HRW recommended that the eight states where a ban is in force should repeal the laws.

"State governments should ... ensure that their legislation and procedures are compatible with Germany's international human rights obligations, guaranteeing in particular that these do not discriminate on grounds of gender or religion," the group said.

AFP/Expatica

1 Comment To This Article

  • B A Stumpf posted:

    on 27th February 2009, 16:36:58 - Reply

    In Turkey teachers are also not allowed to wear a scarf in schools. It is still seen by many non-Muslims (particularly women) as something that is forced or strongly urged or even political.