EU's human rights court endorses Turkish headscarf ban

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Correction — April 13, 2012
The European Court of Human Rights is not an exclusively EU court. Turkey is not, and has never been, an EU member state.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

The European Court of Human Rights has ruled on a case brought by a Muslim student of Istanbul university. The ruling upholds the law in Turkey that bans the wearing of headscarves in universities and public offices.

Leyla Sahin brought her case to the court in 1998 after being excluded from classes for wearing an Islamic headscarf. She contended that the ban discriminated against her and denied her right to an education.

The court ruled that Turkish law was consistent with the European Convention on Human Rights and with the protection of women's rights in general.

The ban was reasonable as a measure to help maintain Turkey as secular society, the court ruled. It argued: "When examining the question of the Islamic headscarf in the Turkish context, there had to be borne in mind the impact which wearing such a symbol, which was presented or perceived as a compulsory religious duty, may have on those who chose not to wear it."

The ruling will impact over 1,000 other similar cases brought by Muslim women in the country.