Thursday, 23 March 2017

Court missed chance to define Muslim clothing rules

ČTK |
30 January 2017

Prague, Jan 28 (CTK) - A Prague court's Friday verdict in the case of a Muslim girl complaining against a ban of hijab in a school evaded answering the basic question, thus missing the chance to decide whether religious clothes can be worn by students in Czech schools, Josef Koukal wrote in Pravo on Saturday.

The anti-Islamic activists, who crowded the courtroom, probably welcomed it that the court dismissed the lawsuit that the Somali girl, Ayan Yamaal Ahmednuur, filed against a secondary medical school.

The court said she actually did not become the school's student because she failed to submit her Czech stay permit certificate in accordance with requirements. If so, she logically could not have been forced to leave the school due to her hijab, the court said, Koukal writes.

The court dispute was a chance to have school clothing rules defined, Koukal writes, adding that there is a number of model rules abroad, from rigid school uniforms to full anarchy.

For example, the court could have specified what requirements in this respect schools can introduce as binding internal directives without colliding with fundamental human rights, Koukal writes.

He writes that tolerance, which a majority applies in relation to a minority, is the most valuable human quality. It gradually became a part of the Western civilisation after World War Two as one of the biggest victories achieved by humans, Koukal writes.

Most recently, many have tended to attack liberalism as a weakness. Such critics ask why foreigners do not observe the Western customs and whether Western people could behave according to their own customs in the respective foreigners' homelands, Koukal writes.

However, excusing one's own intolerance by the intolerance of others is as if one stole because others steal as well, he writes.

"We are tolerant not because we are weak, but because we are better - not better than they, but than we 70 years ago," he concludes.

Discussing the hijab court dispute in Lidove noviny (LN), Zbynek Petracek writes that Western observers would probably wonder at activists crowding the courtroom, applauding the verdict dismissing the Muslim's claim and singing the national anthem.

The observers would not understand why a single hijab case caused such uproar in the Czech Republic, and why the activists hailed the verdict as stormily as if it had averted a crucial threat. In fact the judge only said that Ahmednuur, the Somali complainant, cannot claim an apology and financial compensation from a school based on the anti-discrimination law because she formally was not a student of the school, Petracek writes.

The court dispute did not answer the main question of whether a ban of scarves (hijabs) in a school amounts to discrimination against religion, Petracek writes.

What a pity, otherwise the Czechs could learn what the rules are. They could compare the Prague verdict with the decision a court in Osnabrueck, Germany, made a week ago in the case of a Muslim teacher, who complained of being prevented from wearing a scarf during lessons.

The Osnabrueck court dismissed the suspicion of discrimination, since if the ban were to be discrimination, it would have targeted a single religion, which it did not. If a school allowed Sikhs to wear turbans while forbidding Muslim scarves, it would be discrimination, the Osnabrueck court said, Petracek writes.

A ban on wearing all religious symbols in a state school is no discrimination, the Osnabrueck court indicated. This sounds reasonable, but the Prague court did not progress that far, Petracek writes.

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