Uproar over Bavaria's headscarf-only edict

3rd December 2004 at 00:00
Germany

Lawmakers in staunchly Roman Catholic Bavaria, the latest state to introduce a ban on Muslim headscarves in schools, have caused more outrage after admitting they would still permit nuns' wimples and Jewish skullcaps.

The legislation, carried with the majority vote of the conservative Christian Social Union party, makes Bavaria the seventh state in Germany to ban headscarves from state schools.

But until now, no other state has admitted that the law will only be applied to Muslim, as opposed to all, religious symbols.

State cultural affairs minister Monika Hohlmeier said the Bill was aimed at combating Islamic radicalisation in schools. "Headscarves are blatantly misused by radical Islamic fundamentalists as a symbol. The law in no way infringes on constitutional rights of freedom of religion," said Ms Hohlmeier.

The text of the legislation, however, makes no mention of headscarves.

Instead, it bars the wearing or display of "any and all symbols of a potentially radical political nature" by teachers in publicly funded schools.

Critics said the wording clearly singles out Muslims while at the same time permitting Roman Catholic teachers to wear crucifixes or other Christian symbols.

Opposition Social Democrats and Greens voted against the Bill, warning that it infringes on the constitutional rights of public servants to exercise their religious beliefs.

And Muslim groups vowed to challenge the law in court, although their chances of overturning the law are expected to be slim in the wake of a precedent-setting ruling in a similar case in a federal court earlier this year.

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