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The Headscarf ControversySecularism and Freedom of Religion$
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Hilal Elver

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9780199769292

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2012

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199769292.001.0001

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(p.129) 7 Germany
The Headscarf Controversy

Hilal Elver

Oxford University Press

Germany is home of the 3 million Turkish immigrants who came to Germany starting from early 1960s as guest workers and became part of the German Muslim minority. Germany unlike France does not follow assimilation policy to its immigrants and had difficulty to absorb Muslim presence. Despite Germany’s relatively less visible militant opposition to the headscarf, similar to that of its neighbour France, the German federal system has imposed wider and deeper legal barriers on its Muslim female teachers and civil servants. The German justification for a headscarf ban applicable to teachers is based on a legal argument not unlike the one relied upon in France, which identifies the headscarf as a “political symbol” that puts social peace at risk. Yet there are important differences between the two countries in their treatment of the Islamic headscarf. German laws have targeted teachers and civil servants, as opposed to middle and high school students. Another difference is due to the differing administrative systems of the two countries. German laws are targeted at education, and are therefore under the control of regional governments as opposed to the French centralized system. More importantly, German laws, in general, target Islam specifically with exemptions made for Christian symbols. In France, however, laïcité was the overt reasoning, and no exception was made for other religions. Germany has never claimed to be as secular as France. Its basic reason was the neutrality of the liberal state, but also conveyed was the sense that “our neutrality is Christian.”

Keywords:   concept of christian-occidental, german constitutional court principles on freedom of religion, german federal constitutional court decision of ludin (2003), lander laws, german feminists against headscarf, state neutrality, the eu anti-discriminatory rules, the impact on muslim women in germany

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