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European rights court upholds Turkish ban on headscarves

[JURIST] Turkey can ban the wearing of headscarves in public and private universities, the European Court of Human Rights [official website] ruled Thursday. In its judgment [text; press release], which is not subject to appeal, the court rejected Leyla Sahin's arguments that the ban unlawfully discriminated against her religious beliefs and violated the Turkish woman's right to an education. Sahin, a devout Muslim and medical student, was expelled from Istanbul University in 1998 for wearing her Islamic headscarf in violation of the state endorsed ban. To many female Muslims, the wearing of a headscarf is considered a religious duty under Islamic law [USC backgrounder]. According to the court, the ban was a permissible step toward minimizing "extremist political movements in Turkey which sought to impose on society as a whole their religious symbols and conception of a society founded on religious precepts." The decision is likely to affect similar bans on headscarves enacted recently by a growing number of other countries [JURIST report]. France's ban on religious dress [JURIST report], including headscarves, in schools is considered to be a contributing factor to the recent rioting [JURIST report] in the country. BBC News has more.

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