WASHINGTON — American Muslims are slamming a draft law in the northwestern state of Oregon to ban teachers from wearing religious dress such as hijab at public school.
The Oregon state legislature has passed a bill banning teachers from wearing religious dress at schools and will be signed by the Oregon governor into law.
"No teacher in any public school shall wear any religious dress while engaged in the performance of duties as a teacher," says the Oregon Workplace Religious Freedom Act.
The bill also says education officials and schools would not be breaking the law if they "prohibit a teacher from wearing religious dress while engaged in the performance of duties as a teacher."
Hooper said the bill violates the right of people to wear what they like.
"Merely wearing a headscarf is not proselytizing; it's a statement of faith," he said.
"Practicing one's faith is a right guaranteed by the constitution."
Earlier this month, New York's Mayor Michael Bloomberg nixed a city council call to allow public schools to close on two of the holiest Muslim holidays.
CAIR, America's largest Muslim advocacy group, has defended the right of Americans of all faiths to wear religious attire in the workplace.
Earlier this year, CAIR chapters in Oklahoma and Minnesota helped block proposed legislation that would have prohibited wearing Hijab in driver's license photographs.
Hooper questioned if the ban would affect a Muslim woman who did not normally wear a scarf but had to undergo chemotherapy and lost her hair.
"Would she be put through an inquisition to determine if she was making a religious statement or not?" He said.
Hooper said the Oregon legislation directly contradicts a statement made by US President Barack Obama during a speech to the Muslim world in Egypt in June.
"Freedom in America is indivisible from the freedom to practice one's religion," Obama said in his landmark speech.
"That is why the US government has gone to court to protect the right of women and girls to wear the Hijab, and to punish those who would deny it."
Hijab has been in the spotlight since France banned the wearing of the Muslim headscarf at schools in 2004.
Since then, many European countries followed suit.
Islam sees Hijab as an obligatory code of dress, not a religious symbol displaying one's affiliations.
The Muslim leader said that banning Hijab and other religious symbols is not the answer.
"Concerns about religious neutrality in schools can be adequately addressed through professional codes of conduct."
German religion ban violates Muslim rights: HRW
HRW says exemptions are made for Christian traditions. Laws banning religious symbols and clothing for teachers and other civil servants in parts of Germany mainly target and violate the rights of Muslim women who wear the headscarf, a report published Thursday by Human Rights Watch (HRW) said.
The 67-page report analyzed the human rights implications of the ban, in force in half of the 16 German states, and suggested that it discriminates against Muslim women, excluding them from public sector employment as some women have given up their careers or left Germany.
"These laws in Germany clearly target the headscarf, forcing women who wear it to choose between their jobs and their religious beliefs," the report said. "They discriminate on the grounds of both gender and religion and violate these women's human rights."
The laws in question were all introduced in the last five years, following a 2003 Constitutional Court ruling that restrictions on religious dress are only permissible if explicitly laid down in law, the report said.
Although none of the laws explicitly target the headscarf they allow some exemptions for Christian and "Western" cultural traditions, which HRW said was just as oppressive as countries that force women to wear the headscarf, or hijab in Arabic.
"The claim that these restrictions don't discriminate doesn't stand up," the report said, "In practice, the only people affected by them are Muslim women who wear the headscarf."
HRW recommended that the eight states where a ban is in force should repeal the laws. Germany is home to three million Muslims and has biggest Turkish community outside Turkey.
"Allah or work?"
Female teachers refusing to remove their headscarf have been reprimanded and in some cases dismissed, the report said, citing testimony from dozens affected by the ban.The reported said that teachers had offered to wear alternatives to the headscarf, such as large hats or to tie the scarves in atypical styles, but were rejected.
"To renounce the headscarf is very difficult. On the first day I 'disguised' myself in the school toilet. When a colleague spoke to me, I broke down in tears," said one woman identified in the report as Rabia.
"My son asked me, 'what is more important, Allah or work?' I answered him that it is complicated," she added.
The headscarf has been the subject of heated political debate across Europe and including Turkey where there have been several appeals filed to overturn a ban on university students wearing the headscarf.
Earlier this month Norway reversed a decision to allow female police officers to wear the headscarf following massive criticism of the ruling.
In May last year, Denmark's far-right People's Party launched a campaign against judges wearing headscarves in court and said: "There is no way we will accept this symbol of tyranny," a party spokesman was quoted by AFP as saying.
Debates are still raging in Italy and France, where a law was passed in 2004 banning headscarves and other religious symbols from French state schools.http://voiceofthecopts.org/en/from_the_net/german_religion_ban_violates_muslim_rights_hrw.html