A German court ruled this week that schools can require Muslim girls to participate in co-ed swimming classes. They were right to do so -- but not for the reasons many conservatives suggest.
The Helene-Lange-Gymnasium, a high school in Frankfurt, required a Muslim girl to take part in swimming class. She had the option, according to the logic of the Culture Ministry, to wear a full-body bathing suit known as a "burqini." Her parents filed a complaint. It was a case in which the educational mission of the state had come into conflict with religious freedom.
The court has now passed judgment: It is reasonable to require Muslim schoolgirls to swim together with boys, assuming she has the option of wearing a burqini.
They were right to do so.
Conservative politicians and commentators warned ahead of the ruling that the emergence of parallel worlds must be prevented.
But the judgment of the federal administrative court is correct for other reasons: It takes the new German normality into account. In the schools of large German cities, it has long been a part of everyday life that Muslim girls wear burqinis during swim class. Muslim schoolgirls who refuse to swim argue that despite the burqini, the contours of their bodies are still visible. In addition, they say, they are uncomfortable seeing boys in swimming trunks.
But the right to freedom of religion, the court found, does not convey any "fundamental right" in the context of school, to be protected from the everyday habits and clothing of others -- particularly shorts, which are also common outside of school. It cannot be demanded that a school's curriculum "blocks out the social reality" just because some students find it offensive for religious reasons.
-- Der Spiegel