Prohibition on displaying all religious symbols in court is really aimed at educated female Muslims, critics say.
8 February 2016About 2,000 people rallied in Sarajevo 7 February against a ban on employees of the Bosnian judicial system from wearing the hijab at work.
One of the organizers of the protest, Samira Zunic Velagic, said the recent decision by the country’s high judicial council was a "serious attack against Muslim honor, personality, and identity,” Radio Free Europe reported.
The decision means that, lawyers, judges, and other employees of courts and judicial institutions may not wear the hijab at work. Although the rule applies to all “religious symbols,” the hijab is specifically named, Al Jazeera says.
Muslims are the largest religious group in Bosnia, and make up the majority in the Bosniak-Croat Federation entity.
One hijab-wearing lawyer said no judges or prosecutors wear the headscarf, showing that the legal system tacitly discriminates against Muslim women.
A law on the books since 2003 stating that "judges and officials cannot show any kind of religious, political, national or other affiliation while performing official duties" has never been tested, Al Jazeera says.
Council president Milan Tegeltija said the ruling simply applies the existing law.
“In a secular country” such as Bosnia, “everything has to be secular, especially the public institutions which decide people's rights and interests," he said.
But that argument is specious, the president of the Commission on Religious Freedom of the Islamic Community, Dermana Seta maintains.
"Even if it appears as neutral and as if [the ban] applies to everyone, in reality it targets mostly one specific group – educated women who wear the hijab," Al Jazeera quotes Seta as saying.
The council ruling also forbids the exercise of faith during working hours in judicial institutions, Islamic theologian and Balkan analyst Muhamed Jusic wrote for Al Jazeera’s Bosnian service in January.
"If we allow Muslims to go to Friday prayers, others will immediately seek their rights – Catholics, Orthodox Christians, Jews. We cannot organize our work that way,” judicial council vice-president RuzicaJukic told N1 television.
“I was at a Turkish court and I never saw a judge with her head covered," Jukic added.
The hijab issue is also drawing attention to a “deep misunderstanding over religious rights in the public space, which has long been part of Bosnian society,” theologian Muhamed Jusic wrote.
Demands from the Bosnian Islamic community have held up the signing of an agreement with the government, even though arrangements have been reached with the Roman Catholic and Serbian Orthodox churches.
These are countered by arguments by politicians and media in the overwhelmingly Orthodox Serb entity that Muslim
Compiled by Ky Krauthamer (TOL)
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