Germany's Federal Labour Court declares Berlin headscarf ban for teachers illegal
According to Germany's Federal Labour Court in Berlin, a headscarf ban for female teachers based on the Neutrality Act is not legal. On Thursday, the court ruled in favour of a Muslim woman who had sued because she was refused employment as a teacher in Berlin owing to her headscarf. The plaintiff had been "discriminated against because of her religion", the court explained.
The Regional Labour Court awarded the plaintiff some 5159 euros in compensation in November 2018. The state of Berlin appealed against this decision, citing the Neutrality Act. The Federal Labour Court has now rejected this appeal.
Clothing controversy – the headscarf debate in Germany
For years now, the wearing of headscarves and veils for religious reasons has been the periodic focus of debates and conflicts in public life. We present the key phases of the headscarf debate in Germany.
1961: The Federal Republic and Turkey reach a labour recruitment agreement. Millions of Turks come to Germany as guest workers in the decades that follow – most of them remain. This also introduces Germany society to the headscarf as a feature of female Muslim attire
2002: In its Islam Charter, the Central Council of Muslims in Germany commits to the constitution while at the same time demanding a dignified life for Muslims in the Federal Republic. The Council says that this includes the wearing of the headscarf
2003: The Federal Constitutional Court upholds the ruling of the Federal Labour Court in Erfurt of 2002, which says there are insufficient grounds to dismiss someone for wearing a headscarf for religious reasons in a non-governmental place of work
2003: After years of legal wrangling, the Constitutional Court rules with five votes to three in the case of Fereshta Ludin that a female Muslim teacher cannot be prohibited from wearing a headscarf during tuition without a specific law. This puts the onus on state parliaments to legislate on the matter and in the years that follow, these enact differing regulations
2004: The European Court of Human Rights deals with the headscarf issue for the first time and upholds the ban imposed by Turkish training institutions. The judges in Strasbourg reject the complaint that the law violates the right to religious freedom and the right to freedom of expression
2011: The Federal Labour Court in Erfurt rules that the wearing of a cap in school can be regarded as a religious statement and may therefore be banned. The court goes on to say that the head covering "is evidently being worn as a substitute for an Islamic headscarf". The case is taken to Karlsruhe
2015: The Federal Constitutional Court throws out a blanket headscarf ban for female Muslim teachers in public schools. A ban is only possible, it says, if the wearing of the Muslim head covering poses a concrete risk of causing disruption in schools
2016: The Administrative Court in Augsburg rules that the eight-year headscarf ban in Bavaria for trainee lawyers is unlawful and says that it constitutes interference in religious and educational freedom with no legal basis
The Regional Labour Court pointed out that the headscarf could only be banned if there was a concrete threat to school peace. The Federal Labour Court has now confirmed this. In doing so, the courts referred to a ruling of the Federal Constitutional Court from 2015, which ruled that a general headscarf ban in public schools was illegal. (AFP)