Denmark: Debate about headscarf in court

The court administration has made the decision to allow headscarves in court in December, and had informed the Justice Ministry of that decision several times, but the Justice Ministry had preferred to keep the topic under wraps.

The decision is now about to be overruled by government. The two ruling parties - Danish People's Party and Social Democrats are unhappy with the court administration's decision that says there is no impediment that a court employee will wear a headscarf.

Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen has criticized the guidance earlier this week, and says that Danish judges shouldn't wear religious symbols. At the next coordination meeting, top ministers will discuss a proposal to study regulations against political and religious symbols in other countries.

The government heads put a lot of emphasis on including all religious and political symbols and not just Muslim symbols. Additionally, they will check if the regulations will hold only for judges or also for other people such as the prosecution, police and other governmental bodies.

Torben Melchior, president of the Danish Supreme Court, had said in the past that he sees no problems with female judges wearing a headscarf or refusing to shake hands due to religious reasons. But according to Jyllands-posten not everybody on the supreme court agrees with his opinion. The issue had also been discussed by the judges association.

Karen Hækkerup of the Social Democrats says that religious or political symbols shouldn't stand between the citizens and the court system, and that's what some citizens will feel if the judge wears a headscarf, skullcap or turban. Judges do not function as private people but rather in their role as a judge, when they go into court.

Sources: Jyllands-posten, Ekstra Bladet (Danish)

See also: Denmark: Judges can be veiled

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