13 July 2011
A spokesperson for the Dutch Minister of Justice has clarified that in line with a 2008 ‘police lifestyle neutrality’ code of conduct, officers may not wear flashy accessories or religious symbols. In addition to signs of religious expression such as a cross on a chain, visible tattoos, Mohawk hairstyles and ostentatious earrings are also banned. The spokesperson noted the ban is in effect because ‘police should be seen as being there for everyone’.
The headstones of Muslim soldiers killed in the first World War have been vandalized in the North-western Slovenian Log pod Mangartom. The tombstones were sprayed with Serbian nationalistic symbols. Community Secretary Nizet Poric reacted angrily to the act of defacement, saying that the incidents are “first-class vandalism (and were) right out of order.” The local Islamic community has been notified, and the police are still investigating the incident. The cemetery is the final resting place of Bosnian soldiers who fought in the Austrian army during WWI and killed in the battles of 1916.
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Religion has found its way back into German society. Yet though church and state are kept separate, many Germans are asking themselves how much religious symbolism should influence their daily lives. The renaissance of religion is a phenomenon currently growing across the globe. In Germany, this development has raised many difficult questions, for example to what extent religious symbols should exist in public life. Religion is a private affair in Germany. Yet a cross made of brass hangs on the office wall of Professor Stefan Muckel, head of the Institute for Ecclesiastical Law at the University of Cologne. Just opposite is a picture of Pope Benedict XVI. According to Muckel, the university does not have a problem with the cross, as staff can decorate their office as they choose to. But could he hang the cross on a classroom wall, as well? No, Muckel said, because then it would become a problem of his neutrality. In Germany, certain public places, such as courtrooms or classrooms, need to ensure absolute neutrality. Expressing attachment towards any religious belief is prohibited…
Religious beliefs and symbols must be better protected in the future, according to Edmund Stoiber, the minister-president of Bavaria. He invited Christian, Jewish and Muslim representatives, constitutional experts and journalists to the Chancellery to discuss the subject. “We need a balance between the freedom of opinion and the effective protection of religious sentiments from injury”, Stoiber said. He hopes to incorporate the effective protection of religious beliefs and symbols in the German penal code.