Controversy on court decision to overturn the ban to wear hijab in class

The Federal Constitutional Court decided that “a General Ban on Headscarves For Teachers at State Schools is Not Compatible With the Constitution”. Despite of the plead for the freedom of religion, the judges argued that headscarves could be banned when “turning to a dangerous signal”. Addressing the State of North-Rhine Westphalia, the court underlined that any form of religious privileges towards others would be unconstitutional.

The headscarf has been more than a piece of clothing for the German public. While Muslim women such as Fereshta Ludin claim the headscarf to be part of their personality and cultural identity, part of German public perceives it as a symbol ore repression. In the end of the 1990s, Fereshta Ludin sued her right at the Federal Constitutional Court to teach with the headscarf. In 2003, the court decided to approve her complaint.

Muslims are encouraged to “integrate” into German society participating at public life. For instance, students get the opportunity to study and become teachers of Islamic theology at German universities but cannot wear a headscarf while teaching at public school. While German politicians welcome Muslim police men and women, teachers and bureaucrats as role models, the headscarf broke out the debate to what extent religion and politics should be separated.

The Social Democratic mayor of the district of Neukölln in Berlin Heinz Buschkowsky (SPD) criticized the court decision to suspend the headscarf ban as a “catastrophic mistake”. The court would value the subject´s freedom of religion higher than the neutrality act of the State, favoring religious fundamentalism. Local politicians in districts such as Neukölln, with high numbers of immigrants complain about ethnic hierarchies and social pressure against girls to behave properly according to religious codes.

Politicians representing the Christian conservative parties criticized the court decision. Wolfgang Bosbach of the Christian Democratic Union Party (CDU) does see the headscarf as a simple expression of religious conviction but a conscious sign of demarcation from the cultural tradition of Germany. The social peace at school would be a high concern for State and society. The General secretary of the Christian Social Union Party (CSU) Andreasd Scheuer emphasized the importance to maintain the privileges of Christianity in Bavaria.

The government´s Social Democratic commissioner for integration, Aydan Özoguz (SPD) emphasized the importance of the judgment. The court´s decision would boost a societal debate about what kind of plural society people would like to live in.

The General Secretary of the Central council of Muslims Nurhan Soykan welcomed the decision and underlined that headscarves would not be a thereat to the social peace at German schools. She described the decision as the right step to appreciate diverse lives of Muslim women as equal citizens participating in society and expressed her hope about an end of discrimination of Muslim women.

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