chapter  8
22 Pages

Jane Freedman

In February and March 2004 the French National Assembly and Senate passed

legislation which makes it illegal for Muslim women and girls to wear headscarves

(hijab) within French public schools (the legislation talks about the banning of

ostentatious religious symbols within the secular domain of the public school system,

but is clearly aimed primarily at Muslim women, following a long-running dispute

over the wearing of headscarves in schools). Similar debates over whether Muslim

women should be allowed to wear headscarves in public sector environments are

taking place in other European countries such as Germany, Italy, Belgium, the

Netherlands and Spain. A bill modelled on the recent French legislation has been

tabled in the Belgian Senate, whilst various court cases have been brought in other

European countries by Muslim women, who have been banned from wearing

headscarves by employers or schools. Following a ruling of the German Supreme

Court that a Muslim teacher should be allowed to wear a headscarf, as this did

not contravene current legislation, the state of Baden-Wuerttenberg has acted to

introduce legislation to ban headscarves, and this legislation is likely to be copied by

six other German states.