Saturday, April 01, 2006

Headscarf Bans

Some old news:

Not quite two years ago, headscarves, skullcaps, crucifixes, and other conspicuous religious symbols were banned from public schools in France. A few months later, the German state of Bavaria became "the latest of the country's federal states to ban Muslim school teachers from wearing headscarves," according to a BBC article.

In the Bavarian case, it is only headscarves, not other religious clothing or symbols, that are banned. The same is true for the state of Hesse, where "the headscarf ban applies to all civil servants."

The reasoning (from the aforementioned article):
"The Bavarian parliament approved the measure after Culture Minister Monika Hohlmeier argued that the headscarf was a symbol of the repression of women. [. . .] Ms Hohlmeier said the headscarf had become a political symbol which was widely abused by Islamic fundamentalist groups and was not consistent with democracy, equality and tolerance."
Good work, people! Refuse teachers the right to wear what you deem symbols of repression and Islamic fundamentalism! Address repression with further repression . . .

It is probably unjust of me, but I can't help but think that — at least in the German cases — racism or misunderstanding is at work.

Hasn't Christianity been responsible for its share of repression, murder and intolerance? It seems to me that the only difference is that most people in Europe have many friends, acquaintances or even family members who are Christian. Accordingly, it is clear that any overly negative view of Christian symbols is unjustified.

With Islam, on the other hand, there is, I should think, not so much contact. As a result, there are people who think only of recent news stories and of the attention-grabbing behaviour of fundamentalist Muslims. In my opinion, consequent warped views are responsible for the belief that all will be better off if headscarves are banned.

In short, I think that the German state governments are not responding appropriately to what problems there are. It seems to me that the solution lies with education, understanding, empathy, and tolerance — not with banning headscarves.

In the French case, in particular, what of those girls who cannot attend public schools because they are forced to — or want to — wear a headscarf or veil? Is it a good idea to condemn them to home-schooling or private schools? Won't they be less exposed to other ways of life as a result? Won't it just lead to more ignorance and misunderstanding?

Anyway, I was a little curious about the following part of the article:
"[The federal Constitutional Court of Germany] said new laws could be passed by individual states banning [headscarves] if they were deemed to unduly influence pupils."
Were studies done about this? Were students interviewed? I would be curious to see the results (if there are any). I suppose I could look it up, but I'd rather not. Terrible of me, I know. :o)


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