World

German court upholds ban on head scarves for Muslim teachers

A court on Monday upheld a ban on Muslim teachers wearing head scarves in schools of the German state of Bavaria under a law that says teachers' attire must be in line with 'western Christian' values.

A Munich court on Monday upheld a ban on Muslim teachers wearing head scarves in schools ofthe German state of Bavaria under a law that says teachers' attire must be in line with "western Christian" values.

A Berlin-based Islamic association had complained about the law, which authorities in the conservative-run state of Bavaria have used to ban head scarves while allowing Roman Catholic nuns to continue to wear their head-covering habits in schools.

The Bavarian Constitutional Court ruled Monday that the application of the law in the state neither violated religious freedom nor was discriminatory.

Conservative politicians welcomed the verdict.

An Islamic head scarf represented a "deliberate separation from western values, and that is not compatible with our constitution," Wolfgang Bosbach, a federal legislator for Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democratic Union, said on N24 television.

However, a lawyer for the Islamic Religious Community said some of its members were considering taking their case to the Federal Constitutional Court, Germany's highest court.

Under Germany's federal system of government, education is almost totally under the control of authorities in its 16 states. Authorities in several states, including Baden-Wuerttemberg and Hesse, have introduced similar head scarf bans.

The Bavarian law, introduced in November 2004, forbids teachers from wearing during lessons clothes or other items that seem to express views "incompatible with the basic values of the constitution and its educational goals, including western Christian educational and cultural values."

Judge Karl Huber insisted the Bavarian law did not favour the Christian faith. But because teachers must transmit the values of the constitution, the religious feelings of students and parents must be considered, the court said.

Albin Dannhaeuser, head of the Bavarian teachers association, said he hoped the ruling would put an end to political debate about religion in the state's schools. He said there are only two Muslim female teachers in Bavaria, both of whom wear hats to sidestep the head scarf ban.