Monday, September 27, 2010

Berlin court rules Muslim student cannot pray at school

Featured Block, In the Schools, Religion & Culture

A Muslim student’s bid to pray at school between classes has been turned down by a Berlin court.

Yunus M., a student at Diesterweg High School in Berlin, Germany, is a devout Muslim. The Koran instructs Muslims to pray five times every day; morning, midday, afternoon, evening, and night. This prayer schedule conflicts with the school day.

Diesterweg High School. Photo:The Local

In 2007, Yunus took to kneeling on his jacket in the hallway between classes to pray. That November, principal Brigitte Burchardt told Yunus that his public praying was disruptful and he must stop. Yunus sued, winning his case in 2008 in a lower Berlin court. Until now, he has been permitted to pray in a separate room between classes.

Burchardt found that the ruling led to greater tensions at the school, including Muslim girls who do wear headscarves arguing with those who do not over who is “a better Muslim”.

“We have all major and minor religions, as well as people who are not members of any religion, and all worldviews in our school. You have to understand that,” Burchardt said. “And in addition, I have to protect the interests of those that say they don’t want to be confronted with this. A school is a public space, and perhaps also for some Muslims, a protected space.”

The Berlin Education Department appealed the case, and the higher court today overturned the ruling. It is expected that the case will be appealed to Germany’s Federal Administrative Court.

Meanwhile, a question of Yunus’s continued devotion has been raised. An unnamed official with the Education Department commented that the school’s prayer room has been used five times within the last six months.

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