Europe’s top courts have ruled in favor of a French school that expelled two Muslim girls for refusing to remove their headscarves for physical education classes. The ruling fuels the debate over secularism in France.
The European Court of Human Rights has dismissed a complaint by two French Muslim girls that their school violated their freedom of religion and their right to an education. The girls were expelled after repeatedly refusing to remove their headscarves for physical education classes.
The teacher had said that wearing a headscarf was incompatible with physical education classes. The girls, Belgin Dogru and Esma-Nur Kervanci, are French nationals and were 11 and 12 respectively when they were expelled from the school in the north-western town of Flers in 1999.
For secularism's sake
Based in Strasbourg, the European Court of Human Rights ruled on Thursday, Dec. 4 that the school's move to expel the girls was not out of line, emphasizing that the girls had been able to continue their education via correspondence classes.
"It was clear that the applicants' religious convictions were fully taken into account in relation to the requirements of protecting the rights and freedoms of others and public order," the court said in a press release.
The court also observed that the purpose of the restriction on the applicants' right to manifest their religious convictions was to adhere to the requirements of secularism, a hot topic of debate in France.
Secularism is taken very seriously in the country's state schools, and in 2004 a law was passed that bans pupils from wearing conspicuous signs of their religion at school.
France is home to Europe's largest Muslim minority.
In 2004, bombs planted on trains in Madrid killed 191 people and injured nearly 2,000. A decade on, Spain is better prepared for jihadist terrorism - but the country remains divided by the attack’s fallout.
Russian oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky, who was jailed for a decade on grounds condemned as politically motivated, has applied for residency in Switzerland. He was freed in December, after German intervention.
The president of one of the world's top football clubs, Bayern Munich, has admitted to tax evasion on a larger scale than even the prosecution had claimed. He said he wanted to come clean - and avoid a prison sentence.
The 28th edition of the South by Southwest (SXSW) festival is now underway, drawing tech, music and film innovators and fans from around the world to Texas. Edward Snowden and Neil Young are set to be event highlights.