German State Court Upholds Headscarf Ban for Teachers

A court in Germany’s most populous state of North Rhine-Westphalia has upheld a ban on female Muslim teachers wearing headscarves in schools.

Wearing a headscarf violated a state regulation against religious symbols in public schools, the administrative court in the western city of Düsseldorf ruled on Tuesday.

The case was brought by a 52-year-old secondary school teacher, who said she would appeal Tuesday’s ruling.

The teacher had argued that her headscarf was a “fashion accessory à la Grace Kelly” that was in line with Christian-Occidental values.

The judges did not accept the argument, pointing out that since the teacher always wore the scarf, it was a symbol of her religous beliefs.

Authorities in North Rhine-Westphalia imposed a ban on headscarves in June 2006.

A similar ban was introduced in the southern state of Bavaria in 2005 with the aim of protecting children from the influence of Islamic fundamentalists.

Rules vary

After the headscarf prohibition came into effect in June 2006 in North Rhine-Westphalia, one teacher appeared at school wearing a beret. A court said the beret fell under the headscarf rule and asked the teacher to consider wearing a wig instead, which she refused.

In Bavaria, on the other hand, teachers may wear hats in school.

At an administrative court in Stuttgart in the state of Baden-Württemburg, judges in July 2006 reversed an earlier decision. There, Muslim teachers may now wear headscarves since nuns are also permitted to wear their habits in public schools.

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Deutsche Welle, Germany
Aug. 14, 2007

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This post was last updated: Wednesday, August 15, 2007 at 12:25 AM, Central European Time (CET)