The Teachers’ Association of Germany welcomed a proposal last Monday from the municipal government of the country’s most-populous state North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW) to ban Muslim girls under the age of 14 from wearing the hijab to school.
The association’s president, Heinz-Peter Meidinger, told the daily Bild newspaper that “A headscarf ban would help, at least generally speaking, to undermine discrimination on religious grounds and anti-religious bullying,”
He acknowledged that it may be different for older girls, but called for an end to the “deliberate display of religious symbols among children with religious backgrounds.”
NRW’s Integration Minister, Joachim Stamp, announced the policy last weekend, claiming that young children should not be made to cover their hair for religious reasons.
Susanne Lin-Klitzing, the head of the German Philological Association, told the Bild newspaper: “A headscarf can be seen as a symbol of that, and so there’s no place for it in the classroom.”
Germany’s Islamic Council criticised the NRW proposal for sparking a debate that was “populist, highly symbolic and devoid of substance.”
The council’s chairman, Burhan Kesici, said the idea that Muslim girls are “forced” to cover their hair was outdated and unsubstantiated.
Mr Kesici told the Bild: “Compulsory headscarves and a headscarf ban are in the same vein: they both harm Muslims.”
He added that although there may be a small number who are forced to wear the hijab, it was “disproportionate and unconstitutional” for the state of NRW to “limit the religious freedom of all Muslim women” because of a suspected minority.
The head of the Conference of Ministers of Education, Helmut Holter, also criticised the idea, stating that there should instead be a greater focus on strengthening democratic education at schools.
Mr Holter told the Bild: “All children should be able to develop into free and self-determined individuals.”