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German court OKs woman’s head scarf

New York Times, via San Francisco Chronicle, USA
Sep. 25, 2003 • Friday September 26, 2003

Frankfurt, Germany — Treading into a debate that has flared across Europe, Germany’s highest court ruled Wednesday that a Muslim teacher cannot be forbidden to wear a head scarf in a public school.

The decision by the Federal Constitutional Court ended a protracted legal battle involving Afghan-born Fereshta Ludin, who was barred from teaching at a school in Stuttgart because she refused to shed her scarf.

In ruling 5-3 in favor of Ludin, the court said only that there was no law prohibiting her from wearing a scarf. The panel of judges left it up to the southern state of Baden-Wuerttemberg to decide whether to pass such a law.

Several German states, including Bavaria, Lower Saxony and Hesse, announced they would enact such laws.

In France, where laws forbid placing religious symbols like crosses in classrooms, the government has appointed a commission to consider what to do about head scarves. Most school districts ban them, but many look the other way, whether they are worn by students or teachers.

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