German Judges Want Headscarf Ban in Courts

Judges call for hijab ban in German courts.

A new decision by two influential associations of German judges bans legal representatives from wearing any religious symbol while in court. This means that Muslim practitioners will have to stop wearing the hijab while in the courtroom.

This call comes after a debate that arose when 25-year-old Aqilah Sandhu, a trainee lawyer, was asked to remove her headscarf in Augsburg. Sandhu filed a court case which she won on the grounds that this demand was unconstitutional and encroached upon an individual's religious freedom.

Now, however, the Association of German Administrative Judges and the German Association of Judges have declared that while in a court, a legal representative is not allowed to wear anything that is symbolic of his or her religion. While this rule does not specifically apply to Muslims alone, the implications of it will be felt more by the Muslim legal representatives than by those of any other communities.

The aim of this decision, the Association says, is to make the courtroom a place of equality where the legal representatives represent nobody but the German constitution. As such, a legal representative has to don the attire that has been spelled out for them, i.e., the standard uniform of black robes, white shirt with white bow tie and a cravat or neckerchief. This will, they say, will demonstrate that the outcome of a case depends solely on what is said by the law and not in the personal inclinations of the judge as a person.

Sven Rebehn, the director of the German Association of Judges feels that by implementing a strict and standard dress code for practitioners from all communities, all practitioners in a legal process will know that court makes its rulings objectively and impartially in accordance with the law alone. He also added that a ban on religious attire should not be only on hijabs, but on the religious symbols of every other religion as well.

While many politicians have already been in favor of a complete ban on headscarves for legal practitioners, no concrete guidelines were in place until the recent decision by the legal bodies. Back in 2004, there was a ban on Muslim teachers from wearing headscarves in schools. However, this ban was termed as an unconstitutional measure by the highest court, which rejected to uphold this ban. The negation of the ban came about in 2015 when two Muslim teachers filed a case against it.

Resources

Follow the Conversation on Twitter