German President: All Religious Symbols Should Be on Equal Footing

January 3, 2004

Source: The Straits Times,4386,228145,00.html

On January 3, 2004 The Straits Times ran an Agence France Presse article that reported, "If a Muslim headscarf is an expression of faith, so is a monk's habit or a crucifix and they should be on equal footing, said German President Johannes Rau, prompting fury from Roman Catholic politicians and clerics. Mr. Rau has appealed for all religions to be treated equally in schools. If headscarves are forbidden in German schools, then so should other outward religious symbols, he argued...His remark drew an outraged response from Mr. Edmund Stoiber, Bavarian state prime minister and head of the ultra-conservative Christian Social Union, the Bavarian wing of the Christian Democratic Union, Germany's main opposition. Mr. Rau has no right to 'cast doubt on our national identity, distinguished by the Christian religion', he said. He described Islamic headscarves in schools as 'a political symbol incompatible with our democracy.'"