Teacher wins right to wear scarf

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The Independent Online

The highest court in Germany granted a Muslim teacher the right to wear a headscarf in class yesterday. But its ruling that federal states have the final say could provoke a political storm.

The Federal Constitutional Court ruled that school authorities in Baden-Württemberg acted illegally in barring Afghan-born Fereshta Ludin, 31,from a school in Stuttgart in 1998. The authorities argued that her scarf contravened Germany's constitutional religious neutrality and was "a symbol of exclusion of women from civil and cultural society". But the court in Karlsruhe decided by five votes to three that Mrs Ludin could wear her scarf unless the federal states introduced laws banning the practice.

"We are of the opinion that democratically elected governments should decide whether a woman teacher should wear a scarf in school and not the courts," the ruling said. "State governments are now free to provide the legal basis for such a decision."

The German teachers' union welcomed the decision. "We hope the ruling will encourage other Muslim women who want to become teachers," Eva-Maria Stange, a union spokeswoman, said.