The southern German
state of Bavaria has become the latest of the country's federal states
to ban Muslim school teachers from wearing headscarves.
parliament approved the measure after Culture Minister Monika Hohlmeier
argued that the headscarf was a symbol of the repression of women.
Three other German
states - Lower Saxony, Baden-Wuerttemberg and Saarland - have already
imposed similar bans.
and Jewish symbols will still be allowed in Bavaria.
More than three
million Muslims live in Germany and many have complained that the laws
restrict their freedom to express their religion.
In the state of Hesse,
the headscarf ban applies to all civil servants.
But Ms Hohlmeier said
the headscarf had become a political symbol which was widely abused by
Islamic fundamentalist groups and was not consistent with democracy,
equality and tolerance.
"It's true that the
veil of Islamic fundamentalist groups as a political symbol has been
massively abused," she told German television.
The Social Democratic
Party (SPD) and Greens, who rule in a coalition on a national level,
voted against the ban in the Bavarian parliament, adding that it was
questionable from a legal point of view.
The issue has been
fiercely debated in Germany since Fereshta Ludin, who was denied a job
in Baden-Wuerttemberg in 1998 because she wore a headscarf in school,
went to court.
She argued that the
German constitution guaranteed her religious freedom.
Last September, the
federal Constitutional Court ruled by five votes to three that, under
current laws, she could wear the scarf.
But it also said new
laws could be passed by individual states banning them if they were
deemed to unduly influence pupils.
In France, there is
similar controversy about a ban on the wearing of religious symbols by
pupils in state schools.
12 November, 2004