By Ayhan Simsek
BERLIN (AA) – A German court ruled on Thursday in favor of a Muslim female teacher who was denied a teaching job at a public school due to her wearing the hijab.
The Regional Labor Court in Berlin-Branderburg ordered Berlin’s city-state government to pay €8,680 ($9,248) in compensation to the woman who had filed a lawsuit against the Education Ministry.
Judge Renate Schaude ruled the ministry’s refusal to give a job to the teacher was unlawful and discriminatory.
In 2015, a major ruling of Germany’s Constitutional Court had annulled a “general ban” on teachers wearing headscarves, and ruled that such a ban could only be imposed if a teacher’s headscarf creates a controversy, and threatens the peaceful environment at a school.
The judge underlined the fact that the Muslim woman’s headscarf did not pose any concrete threat to peace at the school she wanted to work in Berlin, and concluded that the decision to grant her a teaching job was discrimination.
Despite the Constitutional Court’s decision in 2015, a number of German states, like Hamburg, Schleswig-Holstein and Berlin, are reluctant to allow teachers to wear headscarves, often citing the provisions of their “neutrality laws”.
The city-state Berlin’s neutrality law prohibits public employees, including teachers, police and justice workers from wearing religious clothing and symbols.
Berlin’s Social Democrat-led coalition government is still divided over the issue, with two minor partners of the coalition — The Greens and The Left Party — favoring a change in the neutrality law, but the Social Democrat Party (SPD) defending the existing legislation.
Despite restrictions imposed by Berlin on teachers with headscarves in many other federal states like Bremen, Lower Saxony, Hesse and Baden-Wuerttemberg headscarf ban has been lifted.
Germany has the second-largest Muslim population in Europe, and among the four million Muslims; three million of them are of Turkish origin.
Although several German states ban headscarf for teachers, the country has no law banning Muslim female students from wearing headscarves in secondary schools or universities.
In France, which has the largest Muslim population in Europe, strict secular rules prohibit headscarf in schools.
France’s 1905 secularism law bans public employees from displaying religious beliefs at work. In 2004, the law was extended to ban students from wearing any “conspicuous signs” of religion, such as headscarves, skullcaps or crucifixes at schools.
In the U.K., where nearly 3 million Muslims live, laws do not prohibit Islamic dress in schools.
*Anadolu Agency’s Hajer M’tiri contributed to this report from Paris