Case of student told to remove hijab at a Czech school comes to definitive end

A Muslim student in the Czech Republic sued because she was told to remove her head covering in class.

Raymond Johnston

Written by Raymond Johnston Published on 01.02.2021 15:17:00 (updated on 01.02.2021) Reading time: 3 minutes

The Prague Municipal Court upheld a ruling by the Prague 10 District Court that halted the case of a Muslim nursing student who was not allowed to wear a hijab by her secondary school. The verdict has taken effect. The incident took place in 2013, and the suit was filed in 2016.

The court rejected the school’s appeal of the decision to close the case. A legal representative of the school said the case was political.

At first, neither the district nor municipal courts in Prague approved the student’s complaint. The case in 2019 reached the Czech Supreme Court, which returned it to the lower courts with guidance that the Czech Republic must accept and tolerate religious pluralism, and neither discriminate against any religion nor favor it unless it has a special reason.

The Supreme Court said that wearing hijab is unusual in the Czech Republic and raises fears of Islam in some people. Nevertheless, it should be tolerated, especially in education, where one task is to teach students to respect the rights of other people and to tolerate different views, the court added.

Now there will be no final ruling on the topic from the courts, as the complaint was withdrawn by the student. The Prague 10 District Court halted the case last summer, after the nursing student withdrew her complaint against the school for fear of hate-motivated attacks.

According to the woman’s lawyer, the woman has faced threats and encountered difficulties when looking for housing and a job.

The school wanted to pursue the court proceedings, despite the complaint having been dropped. The Prague Municipal Court during a closed hearing on Jan. 27 upheld the district court ruling to close the case.

The woman, who is from Somalia, said she had left the Prague secondary nursing school after its principal told her in September 2013 to remove her hijab during theoretical instruction. She claimed that the principal had previously given her permission to wear the hijab in theoretical classed, but that she would take it off in practical classes.

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The Somalian woman filed a lawsuit against the school in 2016 and demanded compensation of CZK 60,000.

The school argued that the student did not submit the required study documents, and left the school of her own will. The school complained that “hysteria” about the case was caused by former ombudsman Anna Šabatová, who commented in favor of the woman.

The school argued it has the right to set dress code rules, even if it restrains freedom of religion in favor of students’ safety and in favor of promoting a secular education.

“I deem the whole case political, I consider it an attempt to breach the walls of the Czech secular education,” school lawyer Radek Suchý told the Czech News Agency (ČTK) in a statement.

“This all [occurred] due to the considerable support of former ombudsman Anna Šabatová, who, in my opinion, bears full responsibility for the whole legal case, which was actually confirmed by the investigation of the Czech Police,” school lawyer Radek Suchý told the Czech News Agency (ČTK) in a statement.

“The result of the case also says something about the state of the Czech judiciary, and confirms my growing concerns about the lack of apolitical decision-making of some Czech judges,” he added.

The court proceedings were regularly attended by anti-Muslim activists, supporting school principal Ivanka Kohoutová.

In 2018, Kohoutová received a Medal of Merit from President Miloš Zeman, who said she was “a brave woman fighting an intolerant ideology.”

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