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Fribourg stands by Islamic headscarf ban

Allowed on the streets but not in the schools

(Keystone)

The city of Fribourg says it will not back down over a decision to fire two school employees for refusing to remove their Islamic headscarves.

The local council confirmed on Wednesday that it was opposed to the wearing of religious apparel in schools. The sacked employees are complaining of unfair dismissal.

The two young women, temporarily employed in August to tend to children after school hours, were dismissed one month later for refusing to take off their headscarves at work.

Fribourg does not permit the wearing of religious clothing in schools.

However, the local Muslim association told the Liberté newspaper on Wednesday that it would challenge the decision.

The association president, Mohamed Ali Batbout, said the dismissal of the young women was unjustified.

He has demanded a hearing with the school authorities, and to that end, a meeting has been arranged.

Racism?

The two women are expected to attend the meeting, as well as representatives from a cantonal commission on integration and racism.

Fribourg's school director, Marie-Thérèse Maradan, said she would attend the hearing but was not prepared to alter the decision.

The city's ban on the wearing of religious apparel is based on a precedent in canton Geneva, where the Federal Court upheld a similar ban.

Religious symbols of any kind, including Christian crosses, cannot be displayed in schools in canton Fribourg. Exceptions are made for older schools as a sign of respect for local traditions.

swissinfo with agencies

Key facts

In 1997, the Fribourg public school board banned the wearing of Islamic headscarves, as part of a ruling on religious apparel.
This decision was based on a Federal Court ruling on a case in canton Geneva.
In the case of the two dismissed women, the city applied the ruling to an after-school childcare.

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