German Christians Fighting to Stop Extension of Ban on Muslim Headscarf to All Religious Symbols

( [email protected] ) Jan 10, 2004 07:53 PM EST

BERLIN – The controversy of banning on wearing Muslim headscarves that arose in France has spread to Germany. Germany, which has some 3.5 million Muslims, is closely watching France's struggle with the same issue. A German Catholic organization uttered Jan. 7, that the Muslim headscarf should be considered a political symbol and legislation banning public school teachers from wearing it should not extend to religious symbols that are part of the country's "Christian tradition," Associated Press reported.

Germany’s Federal Constitutional Court ruled veils are allowed unless existing legislation outlaws them and that any new laws must treat all religions equally.

The Central Committee of German Catholics said banning all religious symbols "would ignore the meaning of the Christian tradition of this country."

The headscarf should be seen as a "symbol against the equal rights of women, and thus against our free democratic constitutional structure as well as the values of our society," the group said.

Along those lines, the state of Lower Saxony announced Wednesday that it would introduce legislation next week to ban the headscarf for schoolteachers and propose banning the headscarf as a political symbol in order to prevent “it being equated with a cross,” said government spokesman Olaf Glaesecker.

The head of Germany's Jewish community, Paul Spiegel, urged states not to act in haste to pass new measures and proposed the need of further discussion over the banning of headscarf.

Currently in France, the Muslim girls are struggling in making decision on whether or not to transfer to private schools. If the headscarf is banned, the girls are most likely to transfer to private schools.

French Education Minister Luc Ferry met with Muslim leaders to address their concerns. Muslims say the push to ban the headscarf in public schools is trampling on their freedoms.

Lhai Thami Breze, president of the Union of Islamic Organization of France also said the ban will put Muslim girls in the position of choosing between their education and "their conscience."