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Dutch-speaking Belgium schools to ban religious headscarves

[JURIST] Belgian school officials announced Friday that Muslim headscarves [JURIST news archive] will be banned in about 700 schools in the Dutch-speaking northern region of Flanders. The move came after an administrative tribunal ruled Tuesday that individual schools could not impose a ban [AFP report] in response to complaints after two Antwerp schools banned headscarves at the beginning of the shcool year. The Flemish school board said that the regional ban will take effect immediately, but there will be a one-year grace period [DPA report] for schools that did not previously have a ban. There will also be an exception for religious classes.

Religious headscarves have been banned in schools in several European countries. The Dutch government announced plans [JURIST report] last September to ban burqas in schools. In 2004, France banned religious clothing and symbols in public schools [JURIST report]. A German court has upheld a similar ban [JURIST report]. In December, the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) [official website] unanimously ruled [JURIST report] that there was no human rights violation when a French school expelled two students in 1999 for refusing to remove their headscarves.

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