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Appeals court rejects hijab complaint of Muslim student

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Prague, Sept 19 (CTK) – A Czech court on Tuesday rejected an appeal of a Somali girl who demanded that a Prague secondary medical school apologise to her and provide financial compensation of 60,000 crowns for allegedly having banned the wearing of hijab.

The verdict has taken effect.

The girl, who was granted Czech asylum in 2011, said the hijab ban indirectly discriminated against her in her access to education and a free choice of profession. The school previously called the case absurd.

“According to the appeals court, the complainant does not have the right to wear a scarf as a manifestation of religious belief without any restrictions on the premises of a public school that must be a neutral environment,” the judge Jan Klasterka said.

There is the right to manifest one’s religious belief, but also the right to have no religion and no religious symbols and not to view anything as a religious symbol, he said.

Klasterka said the girl was not discriminated against. She in fact called for the protection of her positive discrimination or the right to have her head covered, while other students do not have this right.

To reject an exemption from the school rules and from the general practice in the Czech Republic is no discrimination, he said. The duty to tolerate religious symbols is not anchored in the Czech legislation, Klasterka said.

Given the small number of Muslims living in the Czech Republic, there has been no need to legally define the wearing of the Muslim scarf until now, he said.

He said the Czech situation is similar to that in France 30 years ago when France dealt with only few such cases, but after their number increased to thousands, a French law was passed to deal with the situation.

The Somali did not take part in the court proceedings, but dozens of Czech opponents of Islam and migrants arrived to hear the verdict. The judge let the door of the full courtroom open when he issued the verdict so that all who gathered in the corridor could hear him. In reaction to the verdict, the crowd clapped hands and sang the national anthem.

“I am glad that the court did not avoid this crucial question, but I certainly do not share its conclusion,” the girl’s lawyer Radka Korbelova Dohnalova told journalists.

She said she would be considering taking further legal steps.

A petition for an appellate review may be filed to the Supreme Court in this case.

The lower-level court did not deal with the wearing of hijab at all and it rejected the girl’s complaint based on the fact that she formally did not become a student of the school.

Ayan Yamaal Ahmednuur said she had withdrawn from the school because the head teacher’s ban prevented her from wearing hijab even during theory lessons, though originally she agreed with the school on taking her hijab off during the practical exercises of student nurses only. She said the school even did not allow her to cover her neck at least during the lessons.

The Czech ombudsman supported the girl then.

The school insisted that each school has the right to set the rules of clothing and restrict the religious freedom, also in order to ensure the safety of students and the preservation of a secular school system.

Ahmednuur’s lawyer, nevertheless, pointed out that expressions of faith can be restricted by law only, not by lower-level directives such as a school.

The school also said Ahmednuur failed to produce a Czech residence permit, which was required for her admission to studies and which she previously promised to submit, before the start of the 2013/14 school year.

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