Female nurse with hijab (Illustrative photo)

Czech Supreme Court rules in favor of Somali girl barred from wearing hijab at Prague school

The Czech Republic must accept and tolerate religious pluralism, and neither discriminate against any religion nor favour it unless it has a special reason, the court said

Brno, Dec 6 (CTK) – A Somali girl who wanted to wear hijab at a Prague secondary nursing school but was banned to do so in 2013 had the right to wear it, the Czech Supreme Court ruled in its verdict that has been released on its website.

The Czech Republic must accept and tolerate religious pluralism, and neither discriminate against any religion nor favour it unless it has a special reason, the court said.

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A Prague district court, which rejected her complaint against not being allowed to wear the scarf with which Muslim women cover their hair, has to deal with the case again. It must respect the Supreme Court’s verdict that the girl has proved an indirect discrimination against her access to education on religious grounds.

Ayan Jamaal Ahmednuur claimed that she left the school after the head teacher called on her at the beginning of the school year in September 2013 not to wear the Muslim scarf in theoretical classes, although they had agreed before that she would take off the scarf only during the practical lessons as nurses.

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In 2018, the school’s head teacher, Ivanka Kohoutova, received a medal of merit from President Milos Zeman who decorated her as he said she was a brave woman fighting an intolerant ideology, Islam.

In the lawsuit, the student demanded the school’s apology and a compensation worth 60,000 crowns.

The school argued that each school has the right to set the rules of clothing and restrict the religious freedom, also in order to ensure the safety of students and the preservation of a secular school system.

But the Supreme Court said the ban on hijab during theoretical lessons had no legitimate aim. It said neither the security risks were increased nor the identification of the girl was made more difficult by her wearing hijab.

The Prague Municipal Court previously concluded that Ahmednuur does not have the right to wear a scarf as a manifestation of religious belief without any restrictions on the premises of a public school that must be a neutral environment. To reject an exemption from the school rules and from the general practice in the Czech Republic is no discrimination, the appeals court said.

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The Supreme Court admitted that wearing hijab is rather unusual in the Czech Republic and raises fears of Islam in some people, nevertheless, it should be tolerated, especially in education, one of whose tasks is to learn students respect the rights of other people and tolerate different views.

Ombudsman Anna Sabatova, who sided with the student from the beginning, welcomed the verdict. She told CTK that she was happy, but at the same time felt sorry for the girl who has been fighting for her right for nearly six years and this verdict still does not mean the end of her case.

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