Germany: Berlin court backs headscarf ban for teacher

The state's so-called neutrality law is more important than the right to religious expression, said Justice Arne Boyer. A court spokesman said children "should be free of the influence" of religious symbols.

A Berlin court on Wednesday ruled that city authorities took the right decision to uphold the state's neutrality law by barring a primary school teacher from wearing a headscarf during classes.

Under the city state's so-called neutrality law, public employees are prevented from wearing overt religious symbols and clothing. Justice Arne Boyer said such neutrality takes precedence over the right to free religious expression.

Read more:  Can Muslim women wear a headscarf at work in Germany?

"Primary school children should be free of the influence that can be exerted by religious symbols," said Martin Dressler, a court spokesman.

Germany | 24.09.2014

The court, however, said the plaintiff could continue teaching older students in a public secondary school if she desired. The teacher, who was not present during the ruling, filed a lawsuit against the state, claiming she was denied the right to religious freedom.



Most Islamic scholars agree that the hijab, which covers the head and neck, and comes in any number of shapes and colors, must be worn by Muslim women. American teen Hannah Schraim is seen wearing one here while playing with her brother.



The chador, which is usually black, is a body-length outer garmet often worn in Iran and among modern-minded women in the Gulf States, as here in Saudi Arabia. It is not fastened with clasps or buttons and therefore has to be held closed by the wearer.



A niqab is a veil and scarf that covers the entire face yet leaves the eyes free. It covers a woman's hair, as it falls to the middle of her back and some are also half-length in the front so as to cover her chest. Here it is being worn by women attending a rally by Salafi radicals in Germany.



An abaya is a loose-fitting, full-length garment designed to cover the body. It may come in many different styles, as seen here at an Arab fashion show, and is often worn in combination with hijab or niqab.



The burqa is the most extensive of all Muslim garments, covering the entire body from head to toe. It traditionally has a woven mesh area around the eyes to allow women to see. In this case enabling them to cast their ballots in Pakistani parliamentary elections.


No veil

Queen Rania of Jordan says that Islam does not coerce women to wear any head coverings, and that it is more important to judge a woman by her ethics and values, rather than what she wears. She is seen here meeting with refugees in Greece.

Wider debate on religious freedom

In 2015, Germany's Constitutional Court ruled that a blanket ban on teachers wearing headscarves was against the right to religious freedom. However, states have dealt with the matter in varying ways.

Read more: Opinion: German court ruling to allow headscarves for teachers means freedom for all

Last year, a Muslim teacher won a lawsuit against Berlin authorities, arguing that they had discriminated against her because she wore a headscarf. The teacher was awarded €8,680 ($10,300) in compensation, but the court said it was a one-off ruling.

Monday's ruling comes at a time of heated debate over the use of religious symbols in public offices after Bavarian Prime Minister Markus Söder ordered Christian crosses be hung in all state buildings. The move was criticized by lawmakers and Catholic officials.

Germany's Basic Law guarantees freedom of religion and expression.

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ls/kms (dpa, AFP)