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OpEdNews Op Eds    H4'ed 5/8/21

New German law could ban headscarf for public employees

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Message Abdus-Sattar Ghazali
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German upper house of parliament Friday approved a controversial legislation banning public employees from wearing ideological or religious symbols while at work.

Muslim associations have sharply criticized the move and said the legislation was introduced hastily by the government without prior consultation with the country's religious communities.

"This legislative change gives state authorities an instrument with which they can prohibit civil servants from wearing headscarves or kippas that would undermine freedom of faith," Anadolu News Agency quoted a statement of Germany's Muslim Coordination Council (KRM) as saying.

"In practice, it will particularly affect Muslim women who wear a headscarf - regardless of their eligibility or qualifications," the council said.

The new legislation on dress and appearance allows state authorities to ban or restrict the wearing of visible tattoos, symbols, jewelry or clothing related to religion, regardless of belief, while public employees are at work or on duty.

But, it was not clear whether authorities could use this new legislation to enforce a general ban on headscarves for Muslim women.

Burhan Kesici, chairman of the Berlin-based Islam Council, said the bill's language was too vague, which may lead to arbitrary implementation by authorities, violating the fundamental rights of Muslim women working in the public sector.

Katarina Niewiedzial, Berlin Senate Commissioner for Integration and Migration, has also criticized the legislation, stressing that it unfairly targets Muslim women.

"This law provides the basis for a far-reaching ban on headscarves and sends the wrong signal," she said in a statement.

Niewiedzial underlined that under the new measures, Muslim women would not be able to exercise their profession freely or even get a chance of obtaining a public sector job.

Earlier on Friday, Turkish Foreign Ministry spokesperson Tanju Bilgià said Turkey expects Germany to implement the newly-passed regulations regarding public servants' dress code without negatively affecting the Muslim people living in the country.

"The aforementioned legislation has resulted in rightful reactions as the law was hastily prepared without taking into consideration the views of nongovernmental organizations and public debate," Bilgià said.

He continued by saying that Ankara hopes the regulations do not damage freedom of religion and do not lead to a ban on headscarves worn by Muslim women.

"We expect politicians and legislators to use common sense to not further exacerbate increasing racism in a period when Islamophobia, xenophobia and separatist movements rapidly gain ground in Europe," Bilgià added.

There are around 5.5 million Muslims in Germany, equating to some 6.5% of the total population.

Germany has experienced a rise in racism and anti-Muslim hatred in recent years, fueled by the propaganda of neo-Nazi groups and the far-right opposition Alternative for Germany (AfD) party. Germany is home to 81 million people and hosts the second-largest Muslim population in Western Europe after France. Of the country's nearly 5.5 million Muslims, at least 3 million are of Turkish descent.

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Author and journalist. Author of Islamic Pakistan: Illusions & Reality; Islam in the Post-Cold War Era; Islam & Modernism; Islam & Muslims in the Post-9/11 America. Currently working as free lance journalist. Executive Editor of American (more...)
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