Friday, December 5, 2008

A Win for Laicism at the ECHR

From TDZ:
The European Court of Human Rights has ruled that a complaint filed by two Turkish immigrants in France is not admissible, while pointing to a previous headscarf decision against Turkish national Leyla Şahin as a precedent for the ruling.

The applicants, Belgin Doğru and Esma-Nur Kervancı, are French nationals who were born in 1987 and 1986, respectively, and are living in Flers, France. As practicing Muslims, they complained about their expulsion from the school they had been attending as a result of wearing headscarves during physical education and sports classes. The two relied on European Convention on Human Rights Article 9, which covers freedom of thought, conscience and religion, and on Article 2 of Protocol No. 1 of the convention, which covers the right to an education.
The European court, however, ruled yesterday that its reasons for rejecting a similar case by Şahin set a precedent for these applicants’ complaints as well, the Anatolia news agency reported.

Şahin had to leave university in 1998 because the school prevented her from attending courses and exams when she refused to remove her headscarf. The court’s Grand Chamber ruled in 2005 that the ban did not violate the right to freedom of thought, conscience or religion guaranteed by an international human rights treaty.

The ruling was in response to an appeal by Şahin against an earlier ruling from a lower chamber of the court, which found the headscarf ban was in place to protect the rights and freedoms of all students and safeguard public order.

A law banning Islamic headscarves and other religious symbols from French state schools went into force in September 2004. Forbidden items include Muslim headscarves, Sikh turbans, Jewish skullcaps and large Christian crucifixes.
The ECHR affirmed Şahin in a similar decision this June. The political context of the ruling is that the ECHR's stance on the türban does little to endear Europe in the hearts and minds of religious Turks, some of whom have tended to support Europeanization as a potentially positive force in efforts to renegotiate state secularism.

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