Danish Government in Row Over Head Scarves in Court

Jan M. Olsen, AP, May 14, 2008

Denmark’s government said Wednesday it will prepare legislation that would bar judges from wearing Islamic head scarves and religious symbols in court.

While the law would also ban crucifixes, Jewish skull caps and turbans, it highlights ongoing debate over Islamic traditions in Denmark, an issue that gained world attention in 2006 when Danish caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad triggered violent protests in Muslim countries.

Although there are no known cases of a judge in Denmark wearing a traditional Muslim head scarf known as a hijab, Justice Minister Lene Espersen said the law was needed because judges “must appear neutral and impartial” in court.

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The justice minister said the government bill, to be presented later this year, would be directed at judges, and would not affect prosecutors, defense lawyers or other court officials.

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