Belgian Universities Allow Headscarves on Campus Defying Constitutional Ruling

About 12 universities in Belgium decided to allow women to wear headscarves on campus, defying a recent constitutional court ruling that bans religious symbols in higher education. The ruling doesn’t solely prohibit headscarves but all forms of religious symbolism and political opinions.

In June, more than 1,000 people participated in a protest against the ruling, which came about when a group of Muslim women accused the Francisco Ferrer College of prohibiting students to wear head coverings. The case was sent from a Brussels court to the constitutional court where it was decided religious symbols of all kinds in higher education would be banned.

The court concluded the prohibiting of religious symbols in higher education did not violate freedom of religion or the right to education under their constitution and the European Convention on Human Rights. Protestors beg to differ. 

Three local NGO’s organized the protest, referred to as #HijabisFightBack, and represented Muslim women and their fight for freedom of expression and social inclusion. Women were the majority of protesters, many of them without headscarves, participating, and supporting their Muslim peers.

The Free University of Brussels and Catholic University of Leuven both made statements welcoming students “with or without a headscarf.” The 10 other universities also publicly stated their support of religious expression on campus.

The Realist Woman’s take:

How does banning any form of religious symbolism or political opinions not violate freedom of religion or the right to an education? While a dozen Universities are defying the ban, others do not. And if a student decides to wear a headscarf, her freedom of religious expression will be violated, as she will be reprimanded, and her right to an education will be threatened. 

This is wrong and Belgium’s courts are complicit in discriminatory practices against Muslim women. To conclude this ban doesn’t violate their religious freedom and threatens their education is to be in denial. This is discrimination from the highest levels of government.