Austria court overturns primary school headscarf ban

Austria court overturns primary school headscarf ban

VIENNA- Agence France-Presse
Austria court overturns primary school headscarf ban

Austria’s constitutional court on Dec. 11 struck down a law introduced last year which banned the headscarf in primary schools, saying the measure was unconstitutional and discriminatory.

In a statement explaining the decision, the court said the law "contravened the principle of equality in relation to freedom of religion, belief and conscience."

The law prevented girls younger than 10 from wearing the headscarf and had been challenged by two children and their parents.

The measure was passed in May 2019 under the previous coalition of the center-right People’s Party (OeVP) and the far-right Freedom Party (FPOe), just days before that government collapsed due to a corruption scandal.

Both parties had made anti-immigration rhetoric and warnings against "parallel societies" a key part of their political messaging and their spokespeople made it clear at the time that the law was targeting the headscarf.

However, the text of the legislation attempted to avoid charges of discrimination by banning "ideologically or religiously influenced clothing which is associated with the covering of the head".

Nevertheless, the court said that the law could only be understood as targeting Islamic head coverings.

The OeVP-FPOe government had itself said that the patka head covering worn by Sikh boys or the Jewish kippa would not be affected.

The new OeVP-Green party coalition that took office in January had planned to extend the ban for girls under 14.

In its statement the court said that far from promoting integration, "the ban could... lead to discrimination as it runs the risk of making it more difficult for Muslim girls to access education and socially excluding them".