By Ahmed Al-Matboli, IOL Staff
BERLIN, March 24, 2005 (IslamOnline.net) – The legislatures in two German states have turned down proposals by the opposition Christian Democratic Party to ban Muslim school teachers from wearing hijab.
The parliament of Nordrhein-Westfalen, western Germany, rejected the party’s request as having no legal merit.
The Christian Democratic party claimed that hijab places woman at a lower status and was a political symbol not entrenched in the Muslims’ holy book, the Noble Qur’an.
Thomas Kufen, the party’s immigration affairs officer, alleged that disputes could emerge in schools over the issue of hijab and that a legislation was needed.
The party, yet, said nuns should be exempted for any ban on religious dress codes.
The Socialist and the Green parties, the ruling coalition, as well as the Free Democratic Party had opposed the proposals.
They particularly took issue at the Christian Democratic Party’s attempt to exempt nuns’ wear from the ban as a violation of the constitution which demands equal treatment for citizens irrespective of their religious affiliations.
Islam sees hijab as an obligatory
code of dress, not a religious symbol displaying one’s affiliations – unlike the symbolic Christian crucifixes or Jewish Kappas.
The parliament of the south-western state of Reinland-Pfalz also turned down a proposal by Christian Democratic Party leader Christoph Bohr to ban hijab.
The Socialist, Green and Free Democratic parties have voted against the motion, accusing the party of religious discrimination.
Doris Ahnen, the education minister of Reinland-Pfalz, condemned the ban request, saying it would obstruct the integration of Muslim women into society.
The education affairs official in the Green Party, Nils Fichmann, also opened fire on the Christian Democratic Party, whose leaders had described hijab-clad women as “enemies of the constitution”.
The Green party is the only political party that rejects the hijab ban in principle.
Sylvia Lohrmann, the leader of the party’s parliamentary bloc, stressed that the issue should not even be open to discussion.
The Free Democrats, however, rejected the hijab ban because it should have also include the head gear of nuns in order to avoid any discrimination.
Germany's highest tribunal, the constitutional court, ruled in 2003 that Baden-Wuerttemberg was wrong
to forbid a Muslim teacher from wearing hijab in the classroom.
But it said Germany's 16 regional states could issue new legislations to ban it if they believe hijab would influence children.
In addition to Baden-Wuerttemberg, the states of Saarland and Niedersachsen ban teachers from showing any religious or political affiliation, including hijab.
Another state, Hessen, made amendments to its school laws, banning teachers from wearing any symbols of religious or political nature while allowing them a limited right to put on Christian or western symbols.
In Bavaria, laws were enforced in 2004 banning teachers from wearing religious symbols that are not harmonious with Christian cultural values.
The state of Brandenburg made the same amendments in 2003.
IOL’s Correspondent cautions that the parliaments’ rejection of the hijab ban proposal might only be temporary and the controversy could surface again.
Nordrhein-Westfalen’s Education Minister Ute Schafer, of the Socialist Party, told parliament members on March 17 that the number of hijab-clad teachers was very few and the issue should not be raised “at present”.
Dorothee Danner, a Socialist lawmaker, said her colleagues remain divided on the broader issue of hijab in schools.
Some of the party’s MPs support a ban on hijab, while others believe the issue should not be addressed “now”.
Danner, however, expected the issue to be raised again in the coming legislative session.
A recent report by the International Helsinki Federation for Human Rights (IHF) unveiled that Muslim minorities across Europe have been experiencing growing distrust, hostility and discrimination since the 9/11 attacks.