Monday , 21 January 2019

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Germany: Berlin court insists on headscarf ban

A Berlin court ruled on Wednesday against a Muslim primary school teacher who wanted to wear her headscarf at work.

The labour court argued that the school administration’s decision to not allow the teacher to wear the hijab was in conformity with the Berlin’s “neutrality law”, which prohibits public employees, including teachers, police and justice officials from wearing religious symbols.

“The neutrality law does not violate the constitutional provisions,” the court argued in a press release, and noted that primary school administration has asked the teacher to work at a high school, where such restrictions were not in place.

Justice Arne Boyer said such neutrality takes precedence over the right to free religious expression.

“Primary school children should be free of the influence that can be exerted by religious symbols,” said Martin Dressler, a court spokesman.

The court, however, said the plaintiff could continue teaching older students in a public secondary school if she desired. The teacher, who was not present during the ruling, filed a lawsuit against the state, claiming she was denied the right to religious freedom.

In 2015, a major ruling of Germany’s Constitutional Court had annulled a “general ban” on teachers wearing headscarves, and ruled that such a ban could only be imposed if a teacher’s headscarf creates a controversy, and threatens the peaceful environment at a school.

Last year, a Muslim teacher won a lawsuit against Berlin authorities, arguing that they had discriminated against her because she wore a headscarf. The teacher was awarded €8,680 ($10,300) in compensation, but the court said it was a one-off ruling.

However, Berlin is among the few federal states which insists on prohibiting headscarves for teachers working at primary schools.

Although several German states ban headscarf for teachers, the country has no law banning Muslim female students from wearing headscarves in schools or universities.

In Germany, where nearly 4.7 million Muslims live, religious freedoms are protected by the German Constitution.

However, Muslim women who wear headscarves have faced an increasing level of discrimination in recent years amid a rise in anti-Muslim sentiments, triggered by propaganda from far-right and populist parties which have exploited the refugee crisis.

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