Muslim women teachers can wear headscarves – Top German court

Reuters/Ina Fassbender
Germany’s Constitutional Court has lifted a ban on female Muslim teachers wearing headscarves as long as it doesn’t lead to “disruption” at school. The move faced a controversial reaction in the country with the growing fear of “Islamization.”

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The court’s ruling was issued following the case of a Muslim woman who was denied a teaching job due to wearing a headscarf, with the words that the only grounds for religious symbols to be banned are when they pose “not just an abstract but a concrete risk of disruption in schools,” Reuters reported Friday.

The Constitutional Court banned headscarves for teachers in 2003, so some German states have forbidden Muslim teachers to express their faith in this way, though the use of Christian symbols has been left untouched. Yet, the states of Berlin and Hessen have had the strictest ban so far, reaching any civil worker and symbol of any confession.

"This is a good day for religious freedom," said Volker Beck, a lawmaker from the opposition Greens party, as cited by Reuters. He added that a bigger threat to German society could be "opponents of diversity," such as neo-Nazis and extremist Muslim Salafists.

The ruling was also praised for “reinforcing religious freedom in Germany” by Christine Lueders, director of the Federal Anti-Discrimination Agency, who urged local authorities to review the already existing rules.

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However, the German Teachers' Association (Deutschen Lehrerverbandes , DL) believed the ruling to be “problematic.” Its president Josef Kraus said “We fear this ruling could lead to disruption in certain schools if, for example, non-Muslim parents do not agree with their children being taught by teachers in headscarves,” as cited by Reuters.

In 2013, another ruling weakened the pressure on Muslim schoolgirls, letting them wear so-called “burqinis” – special swimming costumes that allowed girls participate in physical education classes. It was based on the case of a 13-year-old girl of Moroccan origin who started skipping her swimming lessons after entering one of the country’s top high schools.

This year, the German Muslim Council warned of an increasing number of anti-Muslim attacks in the country. Women with a headscarf, imams and mosques are suffering “on a daily basis,” Deutsche Welle reported. The council’s chairman, Aiman Mazyek, put the blame for it on the right-wing group PEGIDA (Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamization of the West), which began massive protests against Islam and Europe’s “Islamization” last year.

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Berlin daily TAZ now has warned that the latest ruling of the court will be greeted enthusiastically by the group, saying that "PEGIDA will celebrate" another move to support its harsh policy. PEGIDA has been calling for stricter immigration rules and decentralization of refugee housing, following the rise in number of people seeking political asylum in the country, which now has 4 million Muslim residents.

Chancellor Angela Merkel, who joined a Muslim tolerance rally in Berlin in January, accused the Germany’s growing anti-Islamic movement of spreading hatred and violence against immigrants, pointing out that “Islam belongs to Germany.”