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Last Updated: Friday, 12 November, 2004, 12:03 GMT
Bavaria bans teacher headscarves
Muslim teacher at tribunal in Germany
Four other German states have imposed headscarf laws
The southern German state of Bavaria has become the latest of the country's federal states to ban Muslim school teachers from wearing headscarves.

The Bavarian parliament approved the measure after Culture Minister Monika Hohlmeier argued that the headscarf was a symbol of the repression of women.

Three other German states - Lower Saxony, Baden-Wuerttemberg and Saarland - have already imposed similar bans.

Displaying Christian and Jewish symbols will still be allowed in Bavaria.

More than three million Muslims live in Germany and many have complained that the laws restrict their freedom to express their religion.

The veil of Islamic fundamentalist groups as a political symbol has been massively abused
Monika Hohlmeier,
Bavarian Culture Minister
In the state of Hesse, the headscarf ban applies to all civil servants.

But Ms Hohlmeier said the headscarf had become a political symbol which was widely abused by Islamic fundamentalist groups and was not consistent with democracy, equality and tolerance.

"It's true that the veil of Islamic fundamentalist groups as a political symbol has been massively abused," she told German television.

The Social Democratic Party (SPD) and Greens, who rule in a coalition on a national level, voted against the ban in the Bavarian parliament, adding that it was questionable from a legal point of view.

Religious freedom

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 if they were deemed to unduly influence pupils.

In France, there is similar controversy about a ban on the wearing of religious symbols by pupils in state schools.

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