Muslim wins right to reject the hijab

Islamic groups across Europe have campaigned for years for the right of Muslim women to wear the religious headscarf, or hijab. Now a Muslim woman in the Netherlands has won the right not to wear it.

Samira Haddad, 32, won her case against the Islamic College of Amsterdam, which insists that all Muslim women wear the hijab. The secondary school rejected her for a job after she said in an interview that she did not wear it.

The country’s Equality Commission ruled in Ms Haddad’s favour, saying that the college had illegally discriminated against her on the ground of her religion and that it could not legally compel Muslim women to wear headscarves.

The case highlights the increasingly tense and complex debate surrounding Islamic religious clothing. France and regions of Germany have banned hijabs in schools and other public buildings, while the Dutch Government has followed various Belgian towns by proposing to ban the all-covering burka in certain public places. It says that it could be used by terrorists to conceal their identity.

Muslim groups say that women should be able to wear what they choose, although they have been reluctant to pursue the stance taken by many orthodox Muslims, that Muslim women should be compelled to cover their heads.

Ms Haddad, an Arabic teacher born in the Netherlands, was interviewed at the Islamic college in April. “The first official question was whether I was a Muslim,” she said. “When I answered in the affirmative there was a surprised reaction as to why I did not wear a headscarf.”

She said that her family was from Tunisia, which bans women from wearing headscarves in public. “They pointed out that Muslim women are obliged to wear headscarves at school,” she said. The interview was terminated immediately.

A member of the school board explained at the time: “If Miss Haddad were to declare she was no longer a Muslim, then she could in principle come and work for us.”

Ms Haddad complained to a local anti-discrimination body, but the school cited the Koran in its defence. She then took the case to the Equality Commission, which decided that the Koran was not legally binding in the Netherlands.

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(Listed if other than Religion News Blog, or if not shown above)
Times Online, UK
Nov. 17, 2005
Anthony Browne, Brussels Correspondent

Religion News Blog posted this on Thursday November 17, 2005.
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