FEMYSO strongly condemns the Federal Council of the Federal Republic of Germany (Bundesrat) for a vote which could lead to the erasure of religious symbols from the public sphere. As a pan-European Muslim youth NGO embedded in interfaith and intercultural action, we are appalled by this attack on rights of religious minorities in violation of fundamental freedoms.
On 7 May 2021, Germany marked an unprecedented development by voting in favour of adopting the Clothing Act for Civil Servants (“Erscheinungsbild von Beamtinnen und Beamten”). While this act does not include a specific mention of religious symbols as such and instead defines “symbols reducing trust in their neutrality”, this is in fact nothing less than a loophole on banning religious symbols. It provides a legal mechanism to federal and state authorities to bar public servants from wearing headscarves and kippahs. The decision blatantly disregards the more than 150,000 signatures gathered by German citizens outlining the dangerous nature of this act.
This law comes at a time where Muslims find themselves in the midst of a range of attacks on their freedoms across Europe. In France,we have seen Muslim women and organisations actively being targeted by the French state through the so-called anti-separatism bill, which also entrenches the ban on religious symbols in the public. It would be foolish not to see this move by German legislators as an active effort to mimic tactics used by their French counterparts, weaponizing discrimination against minorities in order to gain politically.
We are deeply concerned over the far-reaching consequences of this decision which could signal the removal of the presence of Muslims, Jews and other religious minorities from the public sphere – which is at odds with the open and inclusive society we all desire. Therefore, we call on the German legislators to revise their decision and particularly invite the German President not to sign and pass this legislation. Both should explicitly protect the wearing of religious symbols by public servants according to the fundamental right of the freedom of religion.
FEMYSO will continue working towards a diverse, cohesive and vibrant Europe.
- FEMYSO (est. 1996) is a network organisation for 33 Muslim youth and student organisations across 20 European countries, and is the leading voice for European Muslim youth, developing and empowering them, and working to build a more diverse, cohesive and vibrant Europe.
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