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Last Updated: Thursday, 1 April, 2004, 16:51 GMT 17:51 UK
German state backs headscarf ban
Teacher Fereshta Ludin
Teacher Fereshta Ludin's case prompted states to legislate
The southern German state of Baden-Wuerttemberg has become the first in the country to ban teachers from wearing Islamic headscarves.

The state assembly approved the law almost unanimously, but Muslim groups said it eroded religious freedom.

The law follows last year's ruling by Germany's highest court that states could ban headscarves if they were deemed to unduly influence pupils.

Another five out of 16 states are in the process of passing similar bans.

On Wednesday, Berlin's regional government agreed to outlaw all religious symbols for civil servants, although the bill still needs to be approved by the regional legislature.

Fierce debates

Baden-Wuerttemberg's parliament - dominated by a coalition of the opposition Christian Democratic Union and liberal Free Democrats - backed the deal almost unanimously.

State culture minister Annette Schavan was quoted by the AFP news agency as saying that headscarves had no place in schools as they were "open to interpretation", including a possible espousal of "Islamic political views".

The issue has been fiercely debated in Germany since Fereshta Ludin, who was denied a job in Baden-Wuerttemberg in 1998 because she wore a headscarf in school, went to court.

She argued that the German constitution guaranteed her religious freedom.

Last September, the federal Constitutional Court ruled by five votes to three that, under current laws, she could wear the scarf.

But it also said new laws could be passed by individual states banning them.

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