BERLIN (AA): Muslim women who wear headscarves experience various forms of discrimination in Germany, but often do not file complaints, head of Federal Anti-Discrimination Agency (ADS) has said.
In a recent interview with Anadolu Agency, Christine Lueders said headscarved women often faced discrimination in the labor market, at fitness clubs or while renting an apartment.
“Many people do not know that in Germany it is prohibited to impose a blanket ban on headscarves,” she said, adding that fitness studios or employers could not impose such bans for individuals who wear religious symbols.
According to Lueders, the Federal Anti-Discrimination Agency received more than 21,000 discrimination complaints since 2016, but only 300 of them were lodged by women wearing headscarves.
“But these statistics do not say much about the actual numbers,” she said.
“In general, when we talk about discrimination, there is always a high number of unreported cases. Because many people put up with discrimination or do not know where they can get support,” she added.
In Germany, where nearly 4.7 million Muslims live, religious freedoms are protected by the German Constitution.
However, Muslim women who wear headscarves have been faced with an increasing level of discrimination in recent years amid a rise in anti-Muslim sentiments, triggered by propaganda from far-right and populist parties which have exploited the refugee crisis.
– EU court decision
While Germany, unlike France, does not have strict rules which prohibit wearing religious symbols in public space, a recent ruling of the EU Court of Justice allows employers to ban their workers from wearing any religious symbol, including headscarves.
“I take a very critical view of this ruling and I wish that the employers would avoid doing so [banning],” Lueders said, stressing that for employers, qualifications of the applicants should be the determining factor, not their appearance or religious affiliation.
She also underlined that having multicultural, diverse teams were in the interest of the employers.
– Neutrality laws
Germany’s top anti-discrimination official has also criticized several German states, which still deny teaching jobs to Muslim female teachers with headscarves, in addition to banning other religious symbols.
“I see a problem here in Germany. Why should it not be possible for a teacher to wear a kippah, a cross or a headscarf?” she said.
In 2015, a major ruling of Germany’s Constitutional Court annulled a “general ban” on teachers wearing headscarves, and ruled that such a ban could only be imposed if a teacher’s headscarf created a controversy, and threatened the peaceful environment at a school.
Nonetheless, a number of German states, like Hamburg, Schleswig-Holstein and Berlin, are reluctant to allow teachers to wear headscarves, often citing the provisions of their “neutrality laws”.
Although several German states ban headscarves for teachers, there is no law that prevents Muslim female students from doing so in secondary schools or universities.