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Cablegate: Controversial Headscarf Ban Proposed in State Of

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 FRANKFURT 008529

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PHUM KISL PGOV SCUL SOCI GM
SUBJECT: Controversial Headscarf Ban Proposed In State of
Baden-Wuerttemberg

REF: 04 Frankfurt 5675

Sensitive but unclassified; not for internet distribution.

SUMMARY
-------

1. (SBU) The Christian Democrat/Free Democrat (CDU/FDP)
Baden-Wuerttemberg state government is drafting
controversial legislation that would ban public kindergarten
teachers from wearing headscarves. Opposition parties and
city officials oppose the legislation, arguing that local
communities should have the flexibility to decide the issue
and that the ban could backfire against efforts to integrate
Muslims into mainstream German society. An internal report
Post obtained from the B-W Justice Ministry indicates that
officials share similar concerns. END SUMMARY.

Controversial Headscarf Legislation Proposed
--------------------------------------------

2. (U) In April 2004, Baden-Wuerttemberg (B-W) was the first
state in Germany to ban headscarves for teachers in public
schools. Supporters of the first ban argued that teachers
who wear headscarves undermine both the religious
"neutrality" of compulsory public schools and the
integration of Muslim women into mainstream society
(reftel). The state government is preparing a controversial
new bill that would extend the ban to include kindergarten
teachers (who were not covered under the first law). (NOTE:
In the German system, kindergarten is voluntary and
regulated at the municipal level, and is separate from the
compulsory grades one through twelve. Former State
Education Minister Annette Schavan (now federal education
minister) was a major proponent of the state's original
headscarf ban. END NOTE).

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Legal Developments
------------------

3. (U) The case that brought the issue to the forefront was
the recent firing of Nuray Arioez, a 31-year-old teacher of
Turkish descent at the public kindergarten of Ebersbach
(Goeppingen county). The city of Ebersbach dismissed Arioez
earlier this year after she began wearing a headscarf during
working hours (Arioez says her daughter's recovery from
leukemia rekindled her faith). Arioez is now challenging
the dismissal in court.

Opposition to the Ban
---------------------

4. (SBU) B-W State Commissioner for Foreigners Christian
Storr (FDP) told a Consulate representative that unlike the
first law, which enjoyed broad political support, the new
ban is likely to meet strong opposition. Opponents argue
that since kindergarten is voluntary, parents can withdraw
children from any school should they oppose teachers wearing
headscarves. Some politicians argue it is more important
that religious neutrality is preserved in compulsory public
schools than in optional kindergartens. The debate is also
jurisdictional: states administer grade schools and
universities while municipalities govern kindergartens.
Social Democrats and Greens are squarely against extending
the ban and will propose legislation empowering
kindergartens to decide the issue independently. Stuttgart
Mayor Wolfgang Schuster (CDU) has also spoken out against
the new ban; the city of Stuttgart handles the issue on a
case-by-case basis (thirty kindergarten teachers currently
wear headscarves during duty hours) and has reportedly
received no formal complaints from parents or other groups.
The Association of B-W Cities also rejects the state's
proposal, arguing that communities have jurisdiction on this
issue.

B-W Justice Ministry Reveals Concerns
-------------------------------------

5. (SBU) Post obtained a copy of an internal report from the
B-W Justice Ministry that highlights its concerns over the
proposed legislation. The report cites the fact that
kindergarten is voluntary and enjoys more legal autonomy
than the compulsory public school system; in addition,
kindergarten teachers are not civil servants and are not
subject to the same restrictions with regard to wearing
religious symbols. Some within the government argue that a
headscarf ban for kindergarten teachers -- by prompting
devout Muslims to withdraw their children -- would be
counterproductive to the state's efforts to promote German-
language early education and to integrate Muslims into
mainstream German society.

BODDE

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