German conference on Islamic veil sparks controversy

All depends on the range of speakers and views that are being expressed, along with how they are expressed:

Islamic veils and headscarves remain the subject of heated public debate in Germany. Some view them as part and parcel of religious freedom; others as a symbol of women’s oppression in Islam. The German court system has already taken up the issue of whether school teachers should be banned from wearing a partial headscarf or full veil — or any other openly religious symbols — in class. To complicate matters further, not all of Germany’s 16 states see eye-to-eye on the matter, which is gaining in visibility due to the country’s changing demographics.

Germany’s Muslim population, which has rapidly increased in recent years due to immigration from Muslim-majority countries, was estimated at between 4.4 and 4.7 million people or approximately 5.5% of the country’s total population in 2015, according to the Federal Statistical Office. The number is doubtless higher now, according to the agency, but updated official figures exist.

With these demographic changes come societal debates — one of which, that of the Islamic veil, has been a continual source of discussion. The latest veil controversy, which made headlines all across Germany, has occurred over a planned academic conference — something that even its organizer did not expect.

Academic accused of peddling ‘anti-Muslim sentiments’

Professor Susanne Schröter, who has been researching Islam in Europe at Frankfurt University since 2008, has planned a conference titled “The Islamic veil – Symbol of dignity or oppression?” for May 8. A small group of students has criticized the conference, accusing her of wanting to spread Islamophobic sentiment and calling for her resignation.

Zuher Jazmati, a member of the “Uni gegen antimuslimischen Rassismus” (“University against anti-Muslim racism”) initiative told DW: “We do not believe a value judgment ought to be made on whether or not someone wears a veil. Making such a judgment is annoying for and a burden on any woman wearing one.” Jazmati believes that such discussions even encourage violence against Muslim women.

He also opposes several of the invited conference speakers. Jazmati takes issue with the attendance of German journalist Alice Schwarzer, who publishes Emma, a feminist magazine. He also opposes Islam critic Necla Kelek, whom he accuses of having expressed highly contentious statements in the past and of perpetuating a racist discourse. “When we discuss this topic we should do so with women in attendance who wear a veil so they can speak for themselves,” Jazmati underlines.

‘Just a regular conference’

Schröter is adamant that the event will go ahead as planned. She told dpa press agency: “I assumed that this would be just a regular conference that would not stir controversy. After all, we have been discussing the Islamic veil for nearly 20 years now.” While she said the Islamic veil had indeed become a hotly debated topic, she underlined that the conference had been planned merely to contextualize the controversial “Contemporary Muslim Fashions” exhibition at Frankfurt’s Museum of Applied Arts. The professor noted that proponents of the veil, like theologian and Quranic expert Dina El-Omari, who herself wears the covering, have been also been invited to the conference.

Still, Schröter is known for her critical view of Islamic veils. In August last year while attending a conference of the nonprofit women’s rights organization Terre des Femmes, she reportedly stated that the covering impedes women’s freedom and is often “tied to a whole bundle of restrictions.”

In early April this year, she published an article in German daily Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung titled “What does God have against showing hair? Those who favor Islamic fashion should be aware of its repressive nature.”

Freedom of speech under threat?

Meanwhile, the German Association of University Professors and Lecturers (DHV) warned that freedom of speech was under threat at German universities. “Dissenting opinions must be respected and tolerated,” insisted DHV president Bernhard Kempen. Differences of opinion must be resolved through debate and not by boycotting, bashing, mobbing or violence, he stressed.

Birgitta Wolff, the president of Frankfurt University, has backed Schröter, stressing that it is part of her job as professor to organize academic conferences at which differing opinions are voiced.

German advertising has increasingly oriented itself toward the Muslim market segment, as shown in this gummy candy ad

Schröter says that universities should be about freedom of speech and a plurality of opinions: “Universities are a place for discussions, not a place where small lobby groups decide what can and cannot be said.” In an interview with German daily Die Welt, Schröter said critics have tried to “intimidate” and “defame” her, and that they were attacking the principle of free speech, adding that they were accusing her of “anti-Muslim racism” because they reject all criticism of Islam.

At present, it looks unlikely an amicable solution to the conference dispute will be found. Jazmati says that the list of invited speakers means neither he nor other members of his organization will attend the event, though he says he will look at conference excerpts released afterwards to see if the things his organization expected did happen. So far, there has been no direct communication between Schröter and the group Jazmati represents.

Source: German conference on Islamic veil sparks controversy

Do Republicans Believe in Religious Liberty for Muslims?

Agree, this is a test:

Donald Trump and his GOP talk and talk about their love of “religious liberty.” In May, there was Trump declaring that religious freedom is a “priority” of his administration.  And in July, Trump’s Department of Justice even announced the formation of a religious liberty task force.

Well, if Trump and the GOP truly believe that religious liberty is not just for Christians, then here’s a no-brainer for them. The Republicans in the House should unanimously support a recently proposed rule to ensure religious liberty for a soon-to-be-sworn-in Muslim member of Congress and push back against the anti-Muslim voices in their party when they attack this change—which, if history is any guide, they will!

Come January 3, 2019, Rep.-elect Ilhan Omar (D-MN) will be the first Muslim member of Congress ever to wear a hijab (head scarf). The problem is that a House rule enacted in 1837 bans any type of headwear, which would include Omar’s headscarf.

In response, Democratic House leader and expected next speaker, Nancy Pelosi, has formally proposed to ditch this 181-year-old ban on headwear in order to “ensure religious expression.” As Pelosi explained to NBC News, “After voters elected the most diverse Congress in history, clarifying the antiquated rule banning headwear will further show the remarkable progress we have made as a nation.”

This rule, while on the books, doesn’t seem to have been enforced. As AshLee Strong, the spokeswoman for House Speaker Paul Ryan, explained in an email, “Under both Republican and Democratic Speakers, the House has never prohibited any kind of religious headwear.” That’s great to hear. But forgive me if I’m not quite reassured.

“In Minnesota, Republican activists this year pushed a resolution to prevent Muslims from even being a part of the GOP.”

So now, Pelosi and the Democrats want to take it one step further and go beyond ignoring a rule and instead affirmatively make it clear that they support religious freedom for all Americans. And Omar herself took to Twitter to celebrate the proposed change, writing, “No one puts a scarf on my head but me. It’s my choice—one protected by the first amendment.”

She added, “And this is not the last ban I’m going to work to lift.” Omar, a Somali refugee who would literally not be permitted to enter the United States today because of Trump’s current Muslim ban, clearly has her sights set on changing that Trump policy.

So why would GOP House members not support embracing religious liberty for Muslims? I suppose they still might in this case—we’ll see how they react when the next Congress starts. But the fact is that Republicans have a recent track record of being outraged over Muslims receiving equal treatment in this country. To many of them, we don’t deserve the same religious accommodations that Christians are afforded, and some don’t believe we belong in American politics—or even in America for that matter.

For example, several years ago the University of Michigan installed a number of foot-washing stations so that Muslims there could wash themselves before praying. (This washing ritual is called wudu and is intended to purify a person before prayer.)

The response by former GOP presidential candidate and Fox News staple Mike Huckabee summed up what we heard from others on the right as he vocally objected, saying, “the accommodation we’re making to one religion at the expense of others is very un-American.”

In Tennessee, GOP state legislators freaked out when they saw in their state capitol what they thought was a new sink installed to allow visiting Muslims to wash before prayers. These Bible Belt Republicans, though, were relived to find out the large sink was installed for washing mops, not Muslims.

And this year we saw two examples of Republican elected officials trying to prevent religious freedom for non-Christians. In South Dakota, a GOP state senator publicly objected to interfaith dialogue among Muslims, Jews, and Christians who had come to the state capitol to meet with their elected official because in his view, “Interfaith dialogue is a part of a war… of taking away the Christian fabric of our nation.”

And in Oklahoma, each session of the state legislature opens with a prayer by the “chaplain of the day.” Well a conservative Christian GOP state representative recently took over administering that program and changed the rules to so that only a Christian cleric would be eligible to deliver that opening invocation.

So much for religious liberty for non-Christians. And sadly, often when we hear the phrase religious liberty uttered by a conservative Republican, it’s not just to deny it to other faiths, but worse, it’s used to demonize or discriminate against the LGBT community.

So here’s a chance for the GOP to champion religious liberty in the best of ways. Not only should every Republican in the House vote for this proposed change; they should speak out publicly in favor it and push back against the extreme voices in their party who no doubt will declare sharia law has taken over the Congress. Expect these extremists to say things like, “Next, Muslims won’t want bacon served in the congressional lunchroom!” (Putting aside religion, turkey bacon is much better for you!)

Sadly, I doubt the GOP will do the right thing. Look what we are seeing now in Texas as Republicans are trying to remove a Muslim American from a leadership position in their own party because some there allege, without a shred of proof,  that he wants to impose Islamic law.

In Minnesota, Omar’s home state, Republican activists this year pushed a resolution to prevent Muslims from even being a part of the GOP, with two Republican elected officials claiming that Muslims are trying to “infiltrate” their party. But none of this is surprising given that the leader of the GOP is Trump, the most anti-Muslim president our nation has ever seen.

But with that said, here’s an opportunity for the GOP to evolve. Will they finally embrace an America for all faiths and push back against voices of intolerance within their own ranks? We will know soon enough.

Source: Do Republicans Believe in Religious Liberty for Muslims?

Quebec’s top court rules woman wearing hijab was entitled to have case heard

Ironic that this decision (a correct one) comes just as the incoming CAQ government has confirmed its party platform prohibiting religious symbols on public servants in positions of authority.

Different issues, of course, but both are symbolic of the ongoing identity/secularism debates:

Quebec’s highest court has ruled a woman who was denied justice three years ago after a judge ordered her to remove her hijab was entitled to be heard by the court.

The unanimous judgment rendered today in favour of Rania El-Alloul says the Quebec court dress code does not forbid head scarves if they constitute a sincere religious belief and don’t harm the public interest.

In 2015, Judge Eliana Marengo refused to hear a case involving El-Alloul’s impounded car because El-Alloul refused to remove her Islamic head scarf in the courtroom.

Marengo told her at the time that decorum was important and, in her opinion, El-Alloul wasn’t suitably dressed.

El-Alloul’s lawyers had appealed the Quebec Superior Court’s 2016 decision refusing to declare that she had the right to be heard by the court despite her attire.

Today’s judgment by the Quebec Court of Appeal quashes the original judgment by the trial judge and sets aside the Superior Court judgment that denied relief.

Julius Grey, one of El-Alloul’s lawyers, says he’s pleased with the ruling that puts both issues to rest.

Source: Quebec’s top court rules woman wearing hijab was entitled to have case heard

Un élu presse le SPVM (Montreal police) d’intégrer le hijab et le turban

Other police services have managed to do so:

Le Service de police de la Ville de Montréal (SPVM) doit autoriser ses agents à porter le hijab ou le turban, réclame un élu montréalais. Le conseiller Marvin Rotrand estime que le silence du corps policier sur ces accessoires religieux représente une barrière invisible pour les communautés culturelles.

Marvin Rotrand a récemment écrit à la responsable de la sécurité publique de Montréal, Nathalie Goulet, afin de réclamer l’intégration du hijab et du turban dans l’uniforme réglementaire du SPVM. «Ça envoie un message positif aux communautés : “Vous êtes les bienvenus. Si vous avez les qualifications, vous réussissez les tests, personne ne va s’opposer à votre candidature”», écrit M. Rotrand dans la lettre obtenue par La Presse.

Démarche en 2016

Ce n’est pas la première fois que l’élu presse le SPVM d’inscrire noir sur blanc que ces signes religieux soient acceptés dans l’uniforme des agents. En 2016, le corps policier lui avait répondu ne pas avoir «de politique précise en lien avec le port d’un hijab, ni un modèle d’approuvé». «Toutefois, nous restons ouverts à évaluer toute éventuelle demande à ce sujet.»

La Presse a tenté de savoir si le SPVM avait mis à jour ses politiques depuis deux ans, mais nous n’avons pas reçu de réponse à ce jour.

Marvin Rotrand estime que le SPVM fait fausse route en attendant de recevoir des demandes pour modifier ses règles. Le simple fait de ne pas intégrer le hijab représente une barrière invisible, selon lui.

«La communauté musulmane ne devrait pas avoir à le demander. On devrait le modifier avant. Ça ne devrait pas reposer sur les épaules des minorités de demander un traitement équitable.»

Plusieurs corps policiers ont déjà modifié leurs règles vestimentaires pour autoriser le hijab et le turban, dont Toronto et Edmonton. La Gendarmerie royale du Canada (GRC) a intégré le turban en novembre 1990 et le hijab en janvier 2016.

En fait, la police montée fournit même des hijabs et des turbans qui ont été approuvés. Ceux-ci ont fait l’objet d’essais pour s’assurer qu’ils ne nuisent pas au travail des agents. «Les essais ont démontré que le port du hijab et du turban ne nuit pas à l’efficacité des membres dans l’exercice de leurs fonctions», indique la sergente Marie Damian, porte-parole de la GRC.

Autorisation et déclaration

À noter, les policiers qui veulent être exemptés du port du chapeau traditionnel de feutre de la GRC doivent obtenir une autorisation et faire une déclaration de croyance religieuse. Depuis 2013, seulement onze policiers ont porté le turban et une seule policière a demandé à porter le hijab.

«Je m’explique mal comment d’autres corps policiers canadiens ont su adapter leurs exigences en matière d’uniforme afin de faciliter l’intégration des femmes musulmanes dans leurs rangs alors que la Ville de Montréal n’a toujours pas agi en ce sens», se désole M. Rotrand.

Selon lui, le SPVM se prive de candidats de qualité. Il estime par exemple que le corps policier n’aurait jamais recruté Harjit Singh Sajjan, l’actuel ministre de la Défense, qui a servi au sein de la police de Vancouver et en Afghanistan au sein des Forces armées.

via Un élu presse le SPVM d’intégrer le hijab et le turban | Pierre-André Normandin | Grand Montréal

Quebec: Les femmes en hijab et les hommes en turban pourront être candidats

Encouraging that this was unanimous vote in the Assemblée nationale:

Les parlementaires ont approuvé mardi un changement règlementaire qui permettra à une femme portant un hijab ou à un homme portant un turban de se porter candidats aux élections.

Le Directeur général des élections (DGEQ) a annoncé début février son intention de modifier le Règlement sur la déclaration de candidature. Il propose en outre d’exiger une photo à «visage découvert» dans le bulletin de candidature. Depuis 1989, le règlement exigeait des photos avec la «tête découverte», une disposition qui était jugée discriminatoire.

Le changement règlementaire permettra donc à une femme voilée ou à un homme portant un turban de briguer les suffrages. Il sera toutefois impossible à une femme portant un voile intégral de le faire.

La modification a été avalisée par une commission parlementaire mardi. Elle devrait être en vigueur aux élections d’octobre.

Lors des dernières élections, en 2014, le DGEQ a invoqué ce règlement pour refuser la candidature de Fatimata Sow, qui voulait porter les couleurs du Parti vert dans la circonscription de La Pinière. Mme Sow avait fourni une photo où elle était coiffée d’un hijab.

En vertu de la nouvelle mouture du Règlement, ce bulletin «pourrait» être accepté, a indiqué le DGEQ, Pierre Reid.

En point de presse, il a rappelé que l’objectif du Règlement était de faciliter l’identification des candidats. Selon lui, la disposition qui interdisait toute coiffure n’avait pas sa raison d’être.

«À partir du moment où vous avez un candidat qui s’identifie clairement, à visage découvert, comme c’est prévu pour les électeurs (…), on ne voyait pas d’utilité sans avoir d’autres explications de la présence de cette exigence», a expliqué M. Reid.

Les partis politiques ont exprimé à l’unanimité leur appui au changement règlementaire.

«Nos lois, nos chartes, doivent être respectées», a indiqué le premier ministre, Philippe Couillard.

De toute manière, a-t-il ajouté, peu importe qui se porte candidat, ce sont les électeurs qui décideront s’ils sont élus.

«Nous ne devrions pas être paternalistes vis-à-vis les citoyens et décider à leur place qui devrait être élu ou pas, a-t-il dit. Ils prendront la décision.»

«Le plus important est qu’on puisse voir le visage, a renchéri le chef du Parti québécois, Jean-François Lisée. Alors je n’ai aucun problème (avec cette mesure).»

La Coalition avenir Québec et Québec solidaire ont également approuvé le changement règlementaire.

via Les femmes en hijab et les hommes en turban pourront être candidats | Martin Croteau | Politique québécoise

Port du hijab: première demande d’accommodement raisonnable adressée au DGEQ | Le Devoir

And so the cases and eventual challenges begin:

Le directeur général des élections du Québec (DGEQ) a reçu une demande d’accommodement raisonnable pour contourner un règlement jugé discriminatoire par certains partis politiques, a appris Le Devoir. Il s’agit d’une femme portant le hijab qui, souhaitant se présenter aux prochaines élections provinciales, a demandé une dérogation lui permettant de joindre à son dossier de candidature une photo d’elle avec son voile, ce qui est actuellement interdit par le DGEQ.

« C’est la première demande d’accommodement raisonnable qu’on a eue à ce sujet », a confirmé Stéphanie Isabelle, porte-parole du DGEQ. Elle reconnaît toutefois avoir déjà reçu des commentaires et critiques incitant à modifier le règlement.

L’article 6 du Règlement sur la déclaration de candidature mentionne en effet que la photographie jointe au dossier doit donner « une vue de face complète du candidat à partir des épaules, tête découverte », ce qui empêche toute personne portant un turban, un voile ou même un bandana, de se présenter. Cet article a été vivement contesté auprès du DGEQ par divers partis politiques, dont Québec solidaire et le Parti vert, qui souhaiteraient présenter les candidats de leur choix, sans entrave pour une question de couvre-chef.

Le Devoir avait révélé il y a deux semaines qu’en 2014, le DGEQ avait refusé la candidature de Fatimata Sow, qui se présentait pour le Parti vert dans La Pinière, parce qu’elle avait fourni une photo d’elle coiffée d’un hijab. Craignant les répercussions négatives sur sa candidature, l’aspirante candidate n’avait pas voulu rendre son histoire publique à l’époque et avait renoncé à se présenter.

Modification possible

N’hésitant pas à parler de « discrimination systémique », le chef du Parti vert, Alex Tyrrell, a multiplié les démarches, notamment auprès de la ministre Kathleen Weil, anciennement à l’Immigration et récemment aux Institutions démocratiques. Celle-ci a récemment déclaré que le pouvoir de modifier le règlement appartenait au DGEQ actuel, Pierre Reid, qui a confirmé qu’il était en train de revoir ce règlement dans son ensemble. « Depuis l’automne, en prévision des prochaines élections, on est en révision de notre matériel électoral et ça inclut le formulaire de déclaration de candidature », a réitéré au Devoir Stéphanie Isabelle.

Seul le Québec possède une telle obligation. L’exigence de fournir une photo « tête découverte » n’existe pas aux niveaux fédéral et municipal, une preuve étant l’élection du député et chef du Nouveau Parti démocratique, Jagmeet Singh. Elle n’existe pas non plus pour obtenir une carte d’assurance maladie du Québec, un permis de conduire ou un passeport, où la loi interdit d’être photographié avec un couvre-chef, sauf si celui-ci est porté tous les jours pour des raisons religieuses ou médicales.

Des partis peu bavards

C’est d’ailleurs ce qu’a fait valoir la future candidate en soumettant sa demande d’accommodement au DGEQ au début du mois de décembre. Elle préférerait toutefois que le règlement soit modifié au lieu de bénéficier d’un accommodement, qui n’a généralement pas bonne presse.

Interrogé sur la procédure à suivre lorsqu’une demande d’accommodement est soumise, le DGEQ a dit qu’il n’y a pas de « procédure prévue pour le moment dans la loi électorale ». Une modification au règlement servirait à régler le problème, mais elle devra être approuvée par l’Assemblée nationale et suivre les étapes, jusqu’à la publication dans la Gazette officielle.

Après plusieurs jours de sollicitation, les principaux partis politiques se sont montrés très avares de commentaires. Le Parti québécois a dit qu’il discutera peut-être de la question à son prochain caucus à la fin de janvier, tandis que le Parti libéral du Québec s’est contenté de dire qu’il se conformera à la Loi électorale et aux règlements du DGEQ. La Coalition avenir Québec n’a pas souhaité faire de commentaires.

via Port du hijab: première demande d’accommodement raisonnable adressée au DGEQ | Le Devoir

Veiling is compulsory in Islam, debate unacceptable: Al-Azhar – Egypt Independent

Speaks for itself – “any debate on the topic is unacceptable”:

Egypt’s Al-Azhar, the Sunni Muslim world’s main religious institution, asserted on Monday in a fatwa, or religious decree, that it is compulsory for women in Islam to wear the veil, while those who deny this are “extremist” and “abnormal”.

Through a statement released by The International Electronic Center for Fatwas of Al-Azhar, the institution said the veil, or hijab, is an obligatory duty imposed by the teachings of Islam, and any debate on the topic is unacceptable.

“It is not acceptable that anyone from the public or non-specialized people, regardless of their culture, to voice their opinions on the matter. The hijab […] aims to preserve [women’s] feminine nature, ” the statement read.

It went on to say that the fact that the veil is compulsory in Islam helps women to become successful and productive in society while preventing them from just being seen as a body.

It added adding that in different countries around the world such as India, China and Japan women wear clothes similar to Islam’s veil as they are keen to follow the nature’s of their nations.

The statement concluded by calling on all who deny that the veil is compulsory in Islam to stop spreading their opinions or issuing fatwas on the matter as they are not specialized or authorized to speak on the issue.

via Veiling is compulsory in Islam, debate unacceptable: Al-Azhar – Egypt Independent

Europe’s high court rules workplace headscarf ban is not ‘direct discrimination’

Hard to see how this policy helps integration. Not as neutral as the Court ruled given that main focus was with respect to the hijab.

Will companies now also police any employee wearing a small crucifix?:

Private businesses in Europe can forbid Muslim women in their employ from wearing headscarves if the ban is part of a policy of neutrality within the company and not a sign of prejudice against a particular religion, the European Court of Justice said Tuesday.

Such a ban doesn’t constitute what Europe’s high court calls “direct discrimination.”

The conclusion by the highest court in the 28-nation European Union was in response to two cases brought by a Belgian and a French woman, both fired for refusing to remove their headscarves. It clarifies a long-standing question about whether partial bans by some countries on religious symbols can include the workplace.

The court’s response fed right into the French presidential campaign, bolstering the platforms of far-right leader Marine Le Pen, a leading contender in the spring election who wants to do away with all “ostentatious” religious symbols in the name of secularism, and conservative François Fillon, who hailed the court’s decisions. France already bans headscarves and other religious symbols in classrooms as well as face-covering veils in streets.

However, critics quickly voiced fears that the decision risks becoming a setback to all working Muslim women.

“Today’s disappointing rulings … give greater leeway to employers to discriminate against women — and men — on the grounds of religious belief,” said a statement by Amnesty International. “At a time when identity and appearance has become a political battleground, people need more protection against prejudice, not less.”

The Open Society Justice Initiative, which submitted a brief supporting the women, expressed disappointment.

“The group’s policy officer, Maryam Hmadoum, contended that the decision “weakens the guarantee of equality that is at the heart of the EU’s antidiscrimination directive,” which the Court of Justice cited in weighing the cases.

The European Court of Justice made separate decisions on the cases, but linked them.

In the Belgian case, Samira Achbita, a receptionist at a security firm, was fired in June 2006 for wearing an Islamic headscarf, banned in a new set of internal rules by her company that prohibited visible signs of their political, religious or philosophical beliefs. Belgium’s Court of Cassation sought guidance from the Luxembourg-based European court which rules on cases involving EU law, which applies to all EU members.

While the cases were linked by the European court, the French case differs and offers Asma Bougnaoui a reason for optimism because the reasons for her dismissal as a design engineer were based, not on internal rules, but on the complaint of a customer unhappy with her Islamic headscarf.

The court said that an employer’s readiness to take into account the wishes of a customer, not internal policy, don’t qualify for the measure set out by the European Union: a “genuine and determining occupational requirement.”

Source: Europe’s high court rules workplace headscarf ban is not ‘direct discrimination’ | Toronto Star

Austria to consider total headscarf ban for public servants – The Globe and Mail

Hard to see how this will assist community relations and integration:

Austria’s Minister for Foreign Affairs and Integration Sebastian Kurz said on Friday he wants to ban public servants, including school teachers, from wearing the Islamic headscarf.

Mr. Kurz, of the Christian Conservative People’s Party (OVP), is working on a draft law with Muna Duzdar, a junior minister from the OVP’s senior Social Democrat coalition partner who has an Arab family background and is Muslim.

If passed by Austria’s parliament, the nationwide ban would be stricter than laws in France, where only the full body veil is illegal, or Germany, where the highest court in 2015 restricted lawmakers’ scope to ban teachers from wearing the headscarf.

“Because there (schools), it’s about the effect of role models and the influence on young people. Austria is religion-friendly but also a secular state,” Mr. Kurz said, according to a spokesman.

Christian crosses, widespread in staunchly Catholic Austria, should be allowed in classrooms, Mr. Kurz said, referring to the country’s “historically grown culture.”

An adviser to the European Court of Justice (ECJ) said in March companies should be allowed to prohibit staff from wearing the Islamic headscarf but only as part of a general ban on religious and political symbols.

Mr. Kurz is revamping Austria’s integration laws and would also like to include a ban on full body veils and restrictions on the distribution of the Koran by Salafist Muslims, Kurz’s spokesman said.

A spokeswoman for Austria’s most prominent Muslim group, IGGIO, noted that discrimination in the workplace on religious grounds was illegal in Austria and said: “After such a statement, trust is badly shaken.”

She said such a ban would send the wrong signal, not least because working women wearing the headscarf could help overcome deep “patriarchal prejudices.”

Ms. Duzdar, the junior minister, told Reuters a person cannot be discriminated against in the workplace on the grounds of their religion and said she wanted to wait for a final ECJ ruling on the issue before sending the law to parliament.

“I’m open to discussions about this but in reality one cannot pick individual religions. If you discuss religious dress and symbols, you have to speak about all religions. We work on a dialogue with all religious communities,” she said.

Source: Austria to consider total headscarf ban for public servants – The Globe and Mail

Quebec woman told to remove hijab in court appeals for legal clarification on right to wear religious attire

Hard to imagine her not winning this appeal. The hijab is not the niqab where the Supreme Court, in a convoluted ruling, stated should be case-by-case (Supreme Court niqab ruling: Veil can be worn to testify in some cases):

A Montreal woman who was told to remove her hijab by a judge is appealing a ruling that declined to clarify whether Quebecers have a right to wear religious attire in court, her lawyer said Wednesday.

Rania El-Alloul had sought a legal clarification from Quebec Superior Court after she was denied an appearance in a lower court because she was wearing a hijab.

Superior Court Justice Wilbrod Décarie ruled last month that the Quebec court judge’s decision went against the principles of Canadian law protecting freedom of religion.

But he also said that although El-Alloul’s treatment was regrettable, he could not guarantee she would be allowed to wear her hijab during future court appearances.

“Each case must be evaluated in light of the context that exists during the witness’s appearance,” he wrote in his decision.

On Wednesday, one of El-Alloul’s lawyers said this case-by-case approach creates insecurity for his client and anyone else who may need to access the justice system while wearing religious attire.

“She would have to be worried every time whether she’d be heard or not, which might induce her to settle cases she shouldn’t settle or not to go to court,” Julius Grey said in a phone interview.

Grey also believes Décarie erred when he ruled it was out of his jurisdiction to make a declaration on whether all litigants have the right to wear religious attire in court.

“When you have a Charter issue, the procedure should not have the effect of depriving someone of their rights,” he said.

A judge refused to hear El-Alloul’s case against the province’s auto insurance board in February 2015 because of her attire.

El-Alloul refused to remove her hijab and the case was put off. It was ultimately settled when the car was returned.

In a statement, El-Alloul said she wanted more than just confirmation the judge had been wrong.

“It isn’t enough that I have been vindicated,” she said. “It’s so important that the successful resolution of my case ensures that no one is ever humiliated the way I was and deprived of their rights.”

Grey said the appeal likely won’t be heard until late 2017.