Ban of the veil

Ban of the veil

Islamic women wearing a veil, hijab or burka for religious causes are facing difficult challenges in Western society. Their determination to wear the religious attire in public is being tested by multiple institutions, asking them to choose between the veil and their education or job.

Religion – education dilemma
In Hamburg, Germany, an issue with a 16 girl wearing a veil to school emerged. The girl in question only takes off her veil when she is among female friends and family. While the Hamburg Administrative Court allowed students to wear burkas in school, the school in question brought an appeal against this judgement.

The School senator, Ties Rabe, stated that classes may only work when all teachers and students alike show their faces. Thus, he wants this law revised. Accordingly, the National Union of Teachers in Germany also calls for a ban on face veils in all educational systems nationwide. Their argument also focuses on the statement that the burka does not match the open communication style they aim for in class.

However, the Higher Administrative Court sees danger in the possibility of violating freedom of religion, supporting the former judgement that burkas should be allowed in school. The issue revolves around the weight of rights, obligations and freedom. By German constitution, freedom of religion is guaranteed. However, the burka might violate the obligation of cooperation in the school law from a pedagogic perspective, hindering the possibility of non-verbal communication.

Religion – career dilemma
In June 2019, a law was passed in Quebec, Canada, banning civil servants from wearing religious symbols at work. Examples of such symbols are the turban and the hijab. However, the National Council of Canadian Muslims has challenged this law, which went to court in September 2019. Here, the Superior Court ruled it would not overturn this law, since it was passed by elected representatives. Critics argue that this law is an attack on Muslim women, forcing them to choose between their religious affiliations and their careers.

The same dilemma has appeared for a 19-year-old woman in Denmark. She left the military after being in service for four days, because she was given the ultimatum of either removing her hijab or not serving as a soldier. Though it was a hard decision, the woman eventually decided to leave. If she was not allowed to wear her hijab and express her religion while serving her country, she did not wish to continue to serve in the Danish military. Additionally, she stated to the media that she asked if her hijab would be an issue before signing up, and that she was told it would not be a problem. Therefore, she feels like she joined the military under semi-false pretences, in the belief that she would be able to express her freedom of religion there as a Muslim woman. It has also made the woman wonder why the Danish military does not wish to include “women like her”. She states that she has the right to wear a hijab under Danish law. Thus, she questions why the country that represents these rights officially does not fully implement them in practice.

Tensions
The examples above illustrate the continuous tensions faced by Muslim women wearing religious attire. Some are forced to choose between expressing their religion and benefiting from education, whereas others have to leave their job if they wish to wear a veil, hijab, or burka.

Zoë Tuithof

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