Headscarf ban for girls legally feasible, says German legal expert
A German constitutional expert said on Thursday that a headscarf ban for girls at school would be legally feasible up to a certain age, as some politicians have shown openness to such a law.
Expert Martin Nettesheim found that a ban on headscarves would not be in conflict with the basic right to freedom of religion nor with parents' rights regarding their children's care and upbringing. A ban on headscarves for girls up to age 14 could be justified and found proportionate, said Nettesheim, who had been asked to review the issue by the women's rights organisation Terre des Femmes.
Unveiling the history of the headscarf
Uncovering head coverings: in much of the Western world today, the word headscarf is often automatically associated with those worn by women for religious reasons, especially Muslim women. Yet the idea and practice of covering one's head with cloth transcends religious, cultural and geographic categories. The show "Veiled, Unveiled! The Headscarf" at Vienna's Ethnological Museum (Weltmuseum) puts headscarf diversity on display
The headscarf in Christianity: in Christianity the veil is seen as a sign of virginity and modesty. On the left, a 2008 painting of the Virgin of Guadalupe, Mexico's patron saint, shows the Virgin Mary wearing a starry blue veil. The Bible considers women's hair immoral and calls on them to cover it when praying — though some wear head coverings at all times. Right, a photograph of a Christian woman taken in Turkey in 1886
Scarves for women and men: the Ethnological Museum's exhibition includes not only artwork in which the headscarf figures, but also various headscarves themselves from around the world. And it's not just women's headscarves being shown; men's are on display, too. Left is a Tunisian bridal veil from the mid-20th century, while the headscarf on the right with a double eagle design is for male members of a religious order in Guatemala
Desert coverings for men: this photograph taken by the Viennese photographer Ludwig Gustav Alois Zohrer shows a Tuareg man wearing the traditional face coverings of the North African nomadic pastoralists. The scarf, often indigo, is believed to keep away evil spirits. It is an important rite of passage into manhood when an adolescent male begins to wear it. Women, in contrast, do not usually cover their faces
A personal undressing: the various coverings worn by some Muslim women are often debated. Nilbar Gures tackles the theme in her 6-minute-long video "Soyunma/Undressing" (2006). In it, she unwraps layers of headscarves given to her by personally significant women, whose names she calls out. It is an autobiographical act that emphasises how Muslim women, veiled or not, "foremost represent their individual selves"
Abstracted depictions: the Vienna exhibition also includes items that examine head coverings in an abstracted manner. This silver gelatine print by Austrian photographer Tina Lechner, entitled "Xiao," recalls the back of a woman's head covered by crinkly fabric that drapes down. Lechner is known for her sculptural-based photography that often examines cultural constructions of femininity in a quasi-surreal manner
Suzanne Jongmans' old-new veil. at first glance, Jongmans' photo "Mind over Matter — Julie, Portrait of a Lady" could be mistaken for von der Weyden's mid-15th century Dutch masterpiece "Portrait of a Lady." But look closely: The sitter's veil is made of packing materials, her ring is a can lid and her bodice is held closed by a single sewing pin. Jongmans' use of recycled materials reflects on how we gauge value and beauty
From conservatism to emancipation: in pre-WWII authoritarian Austria, a woman wearing a headscarf with the traditional Dirndl dress was seen as rooted, practical and patriotically conservative. By the 1950s, however, the headscarf had transformed into a luxury item. Often made of silk and featuring prints, it embodied female elegance and emancipation. Above, the 1st-prize entry for a 1964 fashion competition features a headscarf
Haute couture coverings: since 2003 Austrian designer Susanne Bisovsky has been known for her "Viennese Chic" collections: billowing lace and floral-filled creations drawing heavily on historic Austrian fashion and designed for the modern Viennese lady. Her 2018 collection (above) was designed especially for the Ethnological Museum's show and features impressive headpieces. "Veiled, Unveiled" runs until 26 February 2019
Until that age, children are not legally deemed able to decide for themselves in matters of belief or world view, he wrote, and parents' rights to make decisions for their children aren't centred around the wishes of the father or mother, but the interests of the child.
It's unclear how many girls would be affected by a headscarf ban. Islamic associations have described the discussion as "Islam bashing" and "symbolic debate", and say there are only a handful of cases. Additionally, they have pointed out that the religious obligation to wear a headscarf applies only from "religious maturity, i.e. puberty." Germany's headscarf ban debate was renewed in May after Austria's parliament passed a law prohibiting primary school pupils from covering their heads for religious or ideological reasons. The German government's integration commissioner, Annette Widmann-Mauz, has been open to considering such a law in Germany. (dpa)