German High Court Strikes Down Hijab Ban

Germany’s high court has ruled unconstitutional a North Rhine-Westphalia regulation prohibiting teachers from wearing Muslim headscarves. (source) The law bared religious symbols or actions that were deemed to be a “threat to harmonious co-existence.” (source)

The ruling leaves an opening though.

Judges at the Karlsruhe-based court in southwest Germany said a ban could only be justified if the wearing of the Islamic headscarf led to a “sufficiently concrete danger” of disruption in the school, or of “state neutrality”. (source)

I am relying on third party sources here, as I can not read German. But, it would seem that this ruling would comport with EU Human Rights regulations. The initial ban seemed targeted simply at displays that cracked Germany’s homogeneity, but simultaneously infringed on the teachers’ rights of self expression. The court’s logic seems to provide that a ban could be revived or tailored for legitimate pedagogical purposes, or if the religious displays crossed the line to state endorsement of religion. Under U.S. law, it would be the difference between a public school teacher wearing a crucifix or putting a crucifix up on the wall of the classroom.

The ruling seems to make sense. Banning the Hijab seems unnecessary – unless you’re really trying to get Muslims to assimilate, and of course, even then, it would be incompatible with EU and German law. But, what if the ban was just on the Niqab, Batula, or Burqa? I could see banning those, everywhere, as a matter of promoting human rights. Sure, some women might say they want to wear them – and perhaps they do – and maybe I’m just too western to respect that. They seem downright inhuman to me, and banning them is a way to give women the “out” they might need to get out from under something so damn oppressive.

Would that also infringe on some religious freedom? It might.

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