Headscarf ban in Flemish public schools suspended

The Flemish school board introduced a ban in September 2009 in the region’s Dutch-language public schools, along with a prohibition on the wearing of all religious symbols for pupils and teachers. Responding to a complaint by a Muslim student at a school in the northern town of Antwerp, Belgium’s state council — the highest authority on administrative matters — ordered “the suspension of the execution of this decision,” according to a statement.

Schools in Flanders that are financed by other Belgian communities — mostly Catholic schools run by municipalities — are not bound by the order. The veil in schools debate is also underway in Belgium’s other main communities, French-speaking Wallonia and the Brussels capital region.

Last week a Muslim mathematics teacher in a municipal school in the French-speaking industrial city of Charleroi won a legal battle to wear a veil in class, when an appeals court overturned a lower court decision. Meanwhile the Belgian federal government will begin debating a proposal to ban women from wearing the full-face niqab and burqa in public.