Ludin’s <i>Kopftuch</i> (headdress): A problem of religious freedom in German schools


Marginalisation Of Muslim Minorities
Muslim Women
The Problem Of Double Discrimination
Religious Freedom And Legitimate Restrictions Of Religious Expression


Fereshta Ludin is a German citizen and devout “Muslimin”. She has been denied leave to wear her “Kopftuch” in the classroom. She has lost her case in the courtrooms of the states where appeals were lodged to lift the ban. She may consequently not teach at any public school in Germany. We argue that Ludin is entitled to wear the “Kopftuch” on grounds of her right to religious freedom and that the attempt to deny her this entitlement constitutes a breach of individual rights. Following the South African philosopher, Denise Meyerson, we maintain that the domain of religion constitutes an area of intractable dispute, and that the state is not entitled to limit liberty in this domain because it cannot justify limitations in a neutrally acceptable way. Meyerson’s arguments rest on the acceptability of Rawls’s notion of public reason. We test Ludin’s case against Jeremy Waldron’s objections to the use of deliberative discipline of public reason in cultural disputes and against his alternative to the politics of identity. Meyerson’s approach offers protection of religious dissent in a way Waldron’s cannot. One significant reason for this is Waldron’s insistence on the elimination of identity claims from the conversation between cultures seeking accommodation with one another in the liberal pluralist state. However, bracketing identity claims eliminates what is peculiar about Ludin’s case. This we bring out by drawing on views of Sawitri Sahorsa and Melissa Williams. We argue that Ludin’s dilemma is twofold: her status as “metic” – as a member of a minority at the margins of mainstream German culture, and her status as “Muslimin” – as one believed to be suffering sexual discrimination in her own culture, hang together in a way that challenges the integration policies of the German state and embarrasses German feminism.