When entering a German school, one can expect to see everything from students in hot pants to students rocking a Pikachu-onesie. Students come dressed as if they have a business meeting, or they arrive in yoga pants. Their creativity, concerning their choice of wardrobe, doesn’t know any boundaries, except one simple rule that many schools have: You cannot wear a hat to class!
That’s where the debate about dress-codes for public officials in Germany started. There has never really been a big debate about students wearing a hijab and Muslim students are allowed to wear Burkinis for swimming lessons. But some states enacted a decree prohibiting Muslim teachers from wearing headscarves, arguing that they need to maintain their neutrality and not show their religious affiliation. Some complained about this new law because while Muslims were not allowed to show their affiliation, nuns that were teaching at those same schools were allowed to keep wearing their habits. To this day, schools in some regions of Germany are still allowed to prohibit their teachers from wearing a hijab.
During the refugee crisis, more and more politicians started to demand a law prohibiting Muslim women from wearing a Burqa in public. Advocates of that law claim that it would help minimize the oppression of Muslim women by their husbands, and thereby allow them to integrate into the German society more easily. They also claim that allowing the Burqa in public places would be a threat to security, because you can never know who is “hiding” under the veil. Opponents say that a law like this would infringe the religious freedom and the personal freedom of those concerned. They fear that, if Muslim women weren’t allowed to go outside wearing a Burqa, some of them just won’t go outside at all. Other groups say that the Burqa should only be banned in some cases, for example, security checks or other situations when a person has to be identified, like in court. And then there are those that don’t understand why this is being discussed at all. When walking through Germany you will probably not even see anyone wearing a Burqa, because the number is vanishingly small.
This debate will most likely go on for a long time, and there doesn’t seem to be any kind of compromise politicians could agree on. The fate of the Burqa is yet to be determined.
By Annemarie de Wall