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2015

  • March 2015 : the German Constitutional Court revises its 2003 judgment on Muslim women teachers wearing headscarves

The German Constitutional Court has just revised its 2003 judgment on the wearing of headscarves by Muslim women teachers in state schools. The 2003 decision by the Karlsruhe judges stipulated that a ban was only possible on a legislative basis, thereby opening the way for bans in law at a Länder-based level. Since 2004, half of the Länder had banned headscarf wearing by Muslim women teachers. In Berlin, all signs of religious affiliation without exception had been prohibited in schools and the public sector since 2005.

However, in its judgment of 13 March 2015, the Constitutional Court sides with two Muslim ladies teaching in Rhineland North-Westphalia who had been waiting nearly five years for the judges in Karlsruhe to issue their decision on wearing headscarves in schools. The latter considered that a total ban on headscarves for Muslim women teachers constitutes an attack on the principle of religious freedom enshrined in the Constitution. A ban does, however, remain an option if wearing the headscarf disturbs the peace in schools in a concrete way or if it threatens the neutrality of the State. The Central Council of Muslims in Germany, in the words of its Secretary-General Nurhan Soykan, welcomed the judgment by the Constitutional Court in Karlsruhe, seeing it as “a positive signal”.

If this judgment does not constitute a general authorisation to wear the headscarf, a wave of appeals before the courts will surely ensue. Several Länder will therefore have to re-examine or adapt their legislation.

For further information : Die Zeit, Mediendienst-integration and Der Spiegel.

  • January 2015 : the Pegida movement

Following the acts of terrorism which cost the lives of 17 victims in France, 25,000 people according to the police (40,000 according to organisers) demonstrated in Dresden on Monday 12 January following a call by the anti-Islamic movement Pegida (Patriotische Europäer gegen die Islamisierung des Abendlandes, “Patriotic Europeans against the Islamisation of the West”) and did so in spite of calls by the German Minister of Justice, Heiko Maas, to abandon this gathering and not exploit the Paris attacks. For the twelfth consecutive week, demonstrators therefore marched through Dresden reusing the slogan “Wir sind das Volk !” (“We are the people”), chanted in 1989 by those demonstrating against the GDR regime during the weeks which preceded the fall of the Berlin Wall.

A vast counter-mobilisation then took place in early January throughout the country, bringing together some 100,000 people, including 30,000 in Leipzig. In several large cities, the opponents of the Pegida movement were more numerous than the Pegida demonstrators. The principal targets of the Pegida movement are Islam, foreigners and multiculturalism, as well as different media. Pegida is supported by various extreme right-wing parties as well as movements such as the Alternative Party for Germany (AfD), an anti-European party which narrowly missed entering the Bundestag in September 2013 and sent seven members to the European Parliament in May 2014.

On Tuesday 13 January, President Joachim Gauck and German Chancellor Angela Merkel took part, as did several ministers, in a silent march against Islamophobia in Berlin, organised by Muslim organisations, alongside Aiman Mazyek, President of the Central Council of Muslims in Germany. “We are all Germany”, exclaimed the head of the German State in front of 10,000 people. Angela Merkel, who had warned her compatriots against the temptation of Islamophobia in her 2015 New Year message, reaffirmed that Islam constituted an integral part of Germany.
In spite of counter-demonstrations which have taken place throughout Germany, the Pegida movement is gaining ground : in fact, a Pegida gathering is envisaged in Vienna for early February.

See : Die Zeit, Der Spiegel and Süddeutsche.

4 mai 2015