BERLIN – Following weeks of controversy over Islamic headscarves, municipal lawmakers Wednesday barred Berlin city employees from wearing “visible religious symbols” of any kind.
The compromise legislation, adopted by the majority Social Democrats and former East German Communists now known as the Party of Democratic Socialism (PDS) effectively bans the wearing of Moslem headscarves, Christian crosses, Jewish skullcaps and Sikh turbans by school teachers, police officers, firefighters, court officers and municipal office workers.
The new legislation caps weeks of public debate, particularly in Berlin which has a large Moslem community consisting primarily of immigrants from conservative rural regions of Turkey, where women routinely wear headscarves.
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Some 136,400 Turks live in Berlin, representing 5 per cent of the total Turkish immigrant population in Europe.
“We felt this was the only fair compromise,” said PDS lawmaker Marion Seelig after Wednesday’s decision.
“We believed that if we prohibited Moslem schoolteachers from wearing headscarves it was only right to prohibit people of other faiths from openly displaying symbols of their religions.”
The city-state Berlin thus becomes the sixth state in Germany to bar headscarves, following similar legislation in Baden-Wuerttemberg, Bavaria, Hessen, the Saarland and Lower Saxony.