Cablegate: German State First to Ban Headscarves On Public

Published: Fri 20 Feb 2004 08:41 AM
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
E.O. 12958: N/A
REF: A) 98 Frankfurt 6465; B) 00 Frankfurt 3078;
C) 01 Frankfurt 6028; D) 03 Frankfurt 8335
E) 04 Hamburg 0001
1. (U) SUMMARY: On April 1, Baden-Wuerttemberg (B-W) will
become the first German state to ban the use of headscarves
by teachers in public schools. The new law does not apply
to students (unlike in France) and specifically permits
Christian and Jewish symbols. A wide majority of
legislators have voiced broad support for the ban, proposed
in reaction to a lawsuit by Muslim educator Fereshta Ludin
(reftels). State politicians see Ms. Ludin as an extremist
and view the headscarf as a divisive political symbol rather
than protected religious expression.
2. (U) As defendant in the Ludin constitutional court case
(ref D), the B-W state government is rushing to enact
Germany's first law banning headscarves, arguing that the
state must defend the neutrality of public schools and
oppose discrimination against women. B-W Minister for
Education, Annette Schavan (Christian Democrat/CDU),
presented the draft law on February 4, calling the headscarf
a political symbol for "the suppression of women [and] an
interpretation of Islam contrary to the principle of equal
rights for men and women" and therefore contrary to the
German constitution. Schavan defended allowing Christian
and Jewish symbols in public schools, since the B-W state
constitution says education should be based on Christian and
Jewish traditions (articles 12, 15, and 16).
3. (SBU) There is overwhelming legislative support for the
ban. Social Democratic/SPD reps argue that teachers who
wear headscarves undermine the integration of Muslim women
into mainstream society. SPD legislators Nils Schmid and
Herbert Moser told a Consulate representative that schools
must not reinforce discrimination against women, calling
Ludin's legal campaign an affront to the German
constitution. Both are confident that the courts will
uphold the law. Citing a confidential source at the Federal
Constitutional Court, Moser repeated something echoed by
other sources as well, namely that Ludin's court fees are
paid by the Islamic lobby group Milli Goerues (as additional
"justification" for the accusation that Ludin has a
political rather than a religious agenda). By way of
example, Schmid -- who recently visited the U.S. on an IV
program -- pointed to his wife, a devout Muslim who strongly
opposes the headscarf.
4. (U) A handful of politicians argue the law goes too far
in banning expression. Greens caucus leader Winfried
Kretschmann called for allowing headscarves unless schools
or communities object. FDP (Free Democrat) representatives
support the ban, but -- like Greens -- express concerns that
the German high court may strike down the law's preferential
treatment of Christian and Jewish symbols.
5. (SBU) Within the state government, experts support the
ban but worry about its consequences. The state's special
representative for minorities, Christian Storr, opined
privately that Ludin has become the mouthpiece of the
Islamic fundamentalists who bankroll her legal battles.
Storr voiced concern that the ban could spur economic or
social discrimination against Muslim women who choose to
wear a headscarf. Storr expects that the Federal
Constitutional Court will find fault with the new law's
special treatment of Christian and Jewish symbols, adding to
the legal uncertainty. NOTE: The law leaves open the
question of customs vital to other religious minorities --
both women and men -- for instance Sikh headdress. END
6. (U) COMMENT: The B-W government is hurriedly enacting
the ban in reaction to the verdict in the Ludin case (ref
D), since failure to pass new legislation might compel
Baden-Wuerttemberg to give Ms. Ludin a teaching position.
Because the draft law gives preferential treatment to the
Christian and Jewish religions, however, it is unlikely to
become the last word on this question. END COMMENT.
View as: DESKTOP | MOBILE © Scoop Media