IslamOnline.net & News Agencies
BERLIN – The western state of North-Rhine Westphalia, Germany’s most populous, has banned teachers in public schools from wearing hijab.
The state’s regional parliament, where the conservative Christian Democrats hold a majority, adopted a law banning hijab on Wednesday, May 31, reported Agence France-Presse (AFP).
The law was voted against by the Greens and the Social Democrats.
North-Rhine Westphalia became the eighth of Germany’s 16 federal states to ban hijab in public schools.
Islam sees hijab as an obligatory code of dress, not a religious symbol displaying one’s affiliations.
There are some 3.4 million Muslims in the country, including 220,000 in Berlin, and Turks make up an estimated two thirds of the Muslim minority.
Islam comes third in Germany after Protestant and Catholic Christianity.
The Muslim minority blasted the hijab school ban as unconstitutional.
The Central Council of Muslims in Germany said the new law does not treat all religions as equal, banning only the hijab and not the Christian cross or other religious symbols.
Justice Minister Brigitte Zypries said on May 7 that the Muslim minority was suffering from a growing religious discrimination.
She proposed the introduction of school uniforms to avoid sparking furor over Muslim students wearing hijab, saying such uniforms would also help prevent religious and social discrimination in the country.
Over the past years, the issue of hijab ban in schools has taken central stage in several European countries, including Germany.
The constitutional court, Germany’s highest tribunal, ruled in July 2003 against a decision by the Baden-Wuerttemberg state to forbid a Muslim teacher from wearing hijab in the classroom.
But it said Germany’s 16 states could issue new legislations to ban the Muslim headscarf if they believe it would influence children.
A number of states, including Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, Saxony, Saxony-Anhalt and Thuringia, still allow hijab at schools.
Others, including Baden-Wurttemberg, Saarland and Lower Saxony, ban teaching staff in state schools from wearing symbols that express religious, political, or ideological affiliation, including hijab.