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Muslim woman wins right to wear headscarf

Aug. 22, 2003 • Friday August 22, 2003

Karlsruhe – Germany’s highest court ruled on Thursday that a Muslim shop assistant was wrongly sacked by her employers for wanting to wear a headscarf at work.

The constitutional court in the western city of Karlsruhe declined to hear the department store’s appeal against an October 2000 ruling by the federal employment tribunal, which said that wearing a headscarf was part of the Muslim woman’s right to religious freedom.

The 30-year-old was fired when, nearing the end of her maternity leave, she announced she wanted to wear a headscarf for religious reasons.

Her employers, the only department store in the small town of Schluechtern said it breached their dress code and might be off-putting for their “rural conservative customers”.

They sacked her despite her 10-year work record for the company.

The constitutional court’s decision is to have no formal bearing on another high-profile case still pending.

It is expected to rule on September 24 whether a Muslim teacher was justly fired when she refused to refrain from wearing a headscarf in a public school classroom.

A federal court had earlier upheld the conservative southern state of Baden-Wuerttemberg’s argument that a teacher with a headscarf violated “the strict neutrality of public schools in religious issues” and could influence impressionable young children.

The constitutional court is now hearing the appeal of the teacher.

The teacher, Fereshta Ludin, is an Afghan who was naturalised as a German citizen in 1995.

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