Berlin – The decision to finally allow veiled women to work in Berlin schools – after an 18-year ban under the Neutrality Law – has raised relief among Muslims in Germany. Preventing veiled women from working in different places in the country was considered by many members of the Muslim community as a form of discrimination against them.
And the number of Muslims in Germany is increasing steadily, whether because of the wave of refugees that occurred in the past years, or because a number of Germans converted to Islam, in addition to the teachings of Islam that encourage an increase in the number of births.
There are no accurate statistics on the number of Muslims in Germany. Estimates for the year 2023 indicate that it ranges between 3.8 and 4.5 million, with Turks making up more than half of them, about 2.5 million. This apparent discrepancy between the two numbers is due to the fact that Islam is not recognized as a religion in Germany, although the German constitution respects freedom of belief.
"law of neutrality"
Under Berlin's "neutrality" (religious) law, which bars civil servants from wearing religious clothing and symbols, female teachers in the city have been banned from wearing headscarves since 2005.
Haitham al-Maleh, a Syrian politician known as the “Sheikh of Jurists,” believes that preventing Muslim teachers from wearing the hijab was a wrong decision and must be reformed because it violates the German constitution that respects belief. Hijab, which they see as one of the basics of women's appearance in Islam.
And the human rights activist residing in the German city of Aachen adds that "obligating women (teachers or others) not to cover their hair constitutes a flagrant aggression against them and an assault on their rights as a person who wants to adopt a specific form of dress when leaving the house. The judiciary was supposed to address such a case and restore the right to its people." And it seems that the Ministry of Education realized its previous mistake and retracted it.
Elif Eralp, of the anti-discrimination Left Party, said that "the ban on the clothing of faculty members in public schools due to the Neutrality Act should be abolished immediately," and demanded that women have the same opportunities as everyone else when it comes to public service jobs.
As for Tuba Bozkurt of the Green Party, she said it was time for the state to stop discriminating against Muslim women in Berlin. She described the recent decision of the Federal Constitutional Court as "a big step towards more equality in our society, and it was met with great satisfaction in religious communities."
Granting compensation to the affected teachers
In a report submitted to the relevant authorities in September 2022, a committee of experts formed by the Senate in Berlin complained that the Neutrality Act promotes discrimination against veiled women without objective justification.
In its report, the committee indicated that this law led to complaints of discrimination by female applicants for teaching jobs, and to the payment of compensation to them. In August 2020, for example, the Federal Labor Court awarded a Muslim woman who was not accepted into school service because of the headscarf she was wearing, compensation amounting to 5,159 euros, because she was “discriminated because of her religion.”
Problems facing Muslims in Germany
The sworn interpreter in the German and Swiss courts, Yousef Hamar al-Ain, believes that the decision to return veiled women to work in schools is consistent with the fact that Islam is the second largest religion after Christianity in Germany, where Muslims enjoy the right to practice their rituals and celebrate Islamic holidays.
Hamar al-Ain added, in his interview with Al-Jazeera Net, saying, "Despite this, Islam in Germany faces many challenges, such as discrimination, racism and incitement against Muslims, and mosques and Islamic institutions also face difficulties in obtaining building permits and financing."
The decision is consistent with the German constitution
As for the journalist and translator Walaa al-Ani, she believes that allowing female teachers to wear the hijab is fair to Muslim women. Its constitution respects the beliefs of its people."
Al-Ani wondered, "What if the teacher was from another sect wearing the same dress? Would such an unfair law have been issued?", adding to Al-Jazeera Net that allowing female teachers to wear the veil "is the right decision, after the Islamic community has become a difficult number and has a real and influential presence on the ground." .
It is noteworthy that an official study conducted by the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees "BAMF" in the year 2021 – at the request of the Islam Conference in Germany and the Federal Ministry of the Interior – concluded that between 5.3 million and 5.6 million Muslims – with immigrant backgrounds – live in Germany , with an increase It is about 900,000 more than it was in 2015, or 6.4% to 6.7% of the country's population.