Austria court overturns primary school hijab ban

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Austria’s constitutional court on Friday struck down a law introduced last year which banned the headscarf in primary schools, saying the measure was unconstitutional and discriminatory.

In a statement explaining the decision, the court said the law “contravened the principle of equality in relation to freedom of religion, belief and conscience.”

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The law prevented girls younger than 10 from wearing the headscarf and had been challenged by two children and their parents.

The measure was passed in May 2019 under the previous coalition of the center-right People’s Party (OeVP) and the far-right Freedom Party (FPOe), just days before that government collapsed due to a corruption scandal.

Both parties had made anti-immigration rhetoric and warnings against “parallel societies” a key part of their political messaging and their spokespeople made it clear at the time that the law was targeting the headscarf.

However, the text of the legislation attempted to avoid charges of discrimination by banning “ideologically or religiously influenced clothing which is associated with the covering of the head.”

Nevertheless, the court said that the law could only be understood as targeting Islamic head coverings.

The OeVP-FPOe government had itself said that the patka head covering worn by Sikh boys or the Jewish kippa would not be affected.

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Austrian MPs approve headscarf ban in primary schools

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