Ban on headscarves in austria: hiding problems

Austria’s new coalition wants to ban schoolgirls under 14 from wearing headscarves at school. The Greens are trying to make it look good.

It depends on what you put in your head, not what you put on it Photo: dpa

The new government will be sworn in on Tuesday in Austria: "The young Austrian conservative Sebastian Kurz, of all people, has managed to achieve what Germany refuses to do – a black-green coalition," writes Die Zeit. A look at the government program shows how this has probably been achieved: Kurz can simply continue his previous course.

Especially when it comes to integration and migration, one looks in vain for a Green signature. A headscarf ban for schoolgirls under 14, which was already pronounced by the previous black-blue government and criticized by the Greens at the time, is not far off. Green politicians are trying to talk their way out of the ban. This is a "headscarf pause", a thoroughly left-wing demand, after all it is about the self-empowerment of women.

I am a migrant, even a native Muslim – I have never worn a headscarf and never will. There was a time when I thought headscarves and feminism were difficult to reconcile, when I would have been in favor of banning headscarves for under-14s. At that time, I had only superficial contact with girls and women who wear headscarves.

I was convinced that my opinion was correct until I personally met hijabis and understood that they wear the headscarf to be closer to God. Not to hide their hair from men. Just because I don’t understand that doesn’t mean I’m in the right. Many of them wanted to wear headscarves when they were little girls to imitate their mothers, and many were forbidden to do so for fear of what mainstream society would think.

Ban does not prevent oppression

I have taught enough 11- to 14-year-old girls who voluntarily wore headscarves and were anything but oppressed. What a ban means for them: from now on, their classmate Ali will check whether they put on the headscarf when leaving the school building, and their classmate Max will check whether they take it off when entering.

Girls who are forced to wear headscarves have parents who don’t think rationally, who would consider extra punishments for their daughters. They will also sign them out of recreational activities at school, out of after-school care or all-day school – when school is the only place where they can learn about a different worldview. What good does it do these girls if they don’t wear anything on their heads at school, but still have the same content from home implanted in their heads?

Just by making them invisible to the majority society, we do not solve their problems. For teachers, it also becomes even more difficult to recognize whether a girl is being forced to wear a headscarf, because at first glance they don’t stand out at school. And those who really want to wear it learn: It’s not me as a woman who decides what I wear – it’s Father State who dictates it.

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