Religious Tradition or Political Symbol? Muslim Headscarves Test the Limits of German Tolerance

For years, Germany’s legal experts have been arguing about whether Muslim public officials have the right to wear headscarves. The issue raises difficult questions about religious tolerance and constitutional rights in Germany. “When you do something,” Brigitte Weiss says, “you need to do it right.” It’s a motto she knows from home. She remembers people saying it where she comes from, a coal-mining area in Germany’s western Ruhr region. Later, as a grade school teacher in Mettmann, a small town near D_sseldorf, she tried to pass the homespun wisdom on to her students. Whether it was their homework in German, geography, home economics, or whatever else they were doing — the main thing was to do it right. “All of my students,” Weiss says, “were happy to have me as their teacher.” Now this is no longer entirely the case. The reason is Brigitte Weiss’s conversion to Islam. Now she has a new name, Maryam, and she dresses differently: She wears a headscarf. Thomas Darnstadt reports