Belgium: Muslim teachers sacked for wearing headscarf

BRUSSELS — Two Muslim teachers from the Brussels public education system have been sacked for wearing an Islamic headscarf popup window.

The Muslim teachers were first issued a warning, but continued to wear their headscarves and were later sacked. They have lodged an appeal.

The director of the Brussels school group, Jacky Goris, said the dismissal was correct.

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“In April 2005, the board of management of the Brussels school group decided that teachers, the same as students, were not allowed to wear noticeable religious symbols,” she said.

“The two Muslim teachers started the school year in September 2005 in acceptance with the regulation. But around the New
Year, they suddenly started wearing a headscarf. That is a breach of contract.”

Goris said they could have also chosen for a pragmatic solution. “During the lessons on Islam, they were allowed to wear the headscarf the same as priests may wear a large crucifix during religious lessons.”

She added: “Outside the lessons, they could have worn a discreet scarf or a little hat. I would not have had a problem with that either”.

Goris denied allegations of discrimination, pointing out that the school had sacked a teacher in 2004-05 after he sent racist emails to students. It said it imposes a policy of neutrality.

Brussels Education Minister Guy Vanhengel has backed the stance that teachers should not wear noticeable religious symbols. Flemish Education Minister Frank Vandenbroucke said schools should individually decide whether they would allow a headscarf or not.

The sacked teachers are fighting their dismissal in the council of appeal, which is made up of a magistrate, supported by two public school staff members who are not part of the Brussels school group.

A definitive ruling is expected at the end of this month.

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Expatica, Netherlands
July 12, 2006

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