Another German State Bans Headscarf for TeachersHere in Germany, I see sexily clad girls on a regular basis, heavily made-up, tight jeans, bare midriff, stretch tops and... a headscarf. To me, that reeks of provocation and contempt for the culture of the country which is hosting them.
Germany's most populous state, North-Rhine Westphalia, joins seven other states in forbidding teachers in public schools from wearing the Muslim headscarf.
The law banning Muslim teachers from wearing headscarves was adopted on Wednesday by the regional parliament of the western state of North-Rhine Westphalia, where the conservative Christian Democrats hold a majority. The Social Democrats and the Greens voted against it.
That means that Muslim teachers in half of all German states are forbidden to wear headscarves. With the exception of Berlin, those states -- Baden-Württemberg, Bavaria, Bremen, Hesse, Lower Saxony and Saarland -- are all in the western part of Germany, and the majority of the country's 8 million Turks live there and in the capital.
The Central Council of Muslims in Germany, which represents 3 million Muslims, called the new law unconstitutional because it does not treat all religions as equal, banning only the headscarf and not the Christian cross or any other religious symbols.
They argue that the measure practically bans Muslim women who wear traditional headscarves from working as teachers. Furthermore, young women students who adhere to Muslim traditions are now practically expelled form the workplace.
Biggest Turkish community outside Turkey
Amid heightened fears that wearing a veil is a symbol of fundamentalist Islam, the headscarf issue on another level also reflects sensitive topics such as the modern secular identities of European states, the compatibility of Islam with largely Christian Europe, the acceptance of immigrants, integration and religious rights.
There was a heated debate in Germany, the home to the world's biggest Turkish community outside Turkey, about whether headscarves should be banned in schools in 2003, when such a law was proposed in France...
Baden-Württemberg was the first German state to take action, passing a law in 2003 forbidding teachers to wear the attire. But Germany's highest tribunal, the Constitutional Court, ruled soon after that Baden-Württemberg was wrong to forbid a Muslim teacher from wearing a headscarf in the classroom. It did say, however, that Germany's 16 states could legislate independently to ban religious apparel if it was deemed to unduly influence children, which has subsequently created a patchwork quilt of varying rules throughout the country.
Muslim groups have fiercely criticized the bans as compromising their freedom of religious expression. Muslims makes up Germany's third largest religious community, after Protestants and Catholics.
Fereshta Ludin of Afghani origin, who took the first case to court in 2003 to keep her teaching job in Baden-Württemberg, comes from a secular family. Her mother wears no headscarf.
In May, the case of two Muslim girls had hit the headlines here who had been suspended by their high school in Bonn for wearing a burqa, the all-enveloping cloak. "One of the girls was in class with me," said a co-student, and: "I find it very strange: before the Easter holidays, she was personable and outgoing. Now, after the holidays, she turns up in a Burka."
Does that sound like provocation or does that sound like provocation? Mind you, I think that was nothing but an attempt to get a foot in the door, psychologically speaking. The next, less outrageous, claim for special treatment for Muslims will very probably be granted.
Picture from EMMA.
In the oh-so-liberal weekly newspaper DIE ZEIT from December 2003, within a fawning article about headscarf-wearing teachers in Germany, a notable interview with Eva-Maria El-Shabassy, a German married to an Egyptian who teaches at a primary school in Aachen, can be found.
"She feels bound by the German constitution Grundgesetz. Although: The protection of marriage ought to be interpreted in a stricter way. What does she think about stoning for adultery? "A terrible punishment" says El-Shabassy. Is it unjust? Is it God's command? "This punishment is part of the Sharia", says the schoolmarm. Injustice? "Adultery is a crime, like murder." On inquiry, she is not able to comment. When leaving, she murmurs: "When once in hundred years an adulteress is stoned, maybe many marriages will be saved?"The interview caused some public irritation, but after a lame not-quite-retraction, an even lamer statement from El-Shabassy's school and a no reaction at all from the government department in charge, it all petered out somehow.
Eva-Maria El-Shabassy is not just a humble primary school teacher, mind you. She is considered an international expert on Muslim education.
Islamists are counting on converts.
Watch this space for more.