Austrian Court Overturns Hijab Ban for Students

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The Austrian Constitutional Court has overturned a ban on hijab for students in elementary schools, deeming it discriminatory and unconstitutional.

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The court said the law banning hijab for girls under 10 years old “contravened the principle of equality in relation to freedom of religion, belief and conscience,” Eurasia Review reported.

The Austrian parliament approved the new law banning Muslim hijab in primary schools in May, 2019.  

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The measure, proposed by the ruling right-wing government, referred to any “ideologically or religiously influenced clothing which is associated with the covering of the head.”

Judge Christoph Grabenwarter said it was clear that the law targeted Muslim head coverings or hijab.

“It carries the risk of hindering Muslim girls’ access to education and more precisely of shutting them off from society,” Grabenwarter said, according to the German news site Deutsche Welle.

Two Muslim children and their parents challenged the law. They also said it applied only to headscarves and not to smaller religious head coverings like those of Jewish or Sikh boys.

Reaction

In reaction, the Muslim community in Austria praised the court decision.

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“Equal opportunity and the autonomy of girls and women in our society cannot be achieved through bans,” said Umit Vural, president of the Austrian Islamic Faith Community, who also criticized pressuring girls to wear a hijab.

“We don’t condone disparaging attitudes towards women who decide against the headscarf… and we also cannot agree with the curtailing of the religious freedom of those Muslim women who understand the headscarf to be an integral part of their lived religious practice.”

Islam sees hijab as an obligatory code of dress, not just a religious symbol displaying one’s affiliations.

Of Austria’s 8.75 million people, an estimated 700,000 people identify as Muslims.

A few days ago, a Swedish court also overturned a bill banning all forms of Muslim head coverings at schools.

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