Bosnia, Sarajevo: Women activists protested the Hijab ban in the judicial institutions in Bosnia and Herzegovina to avoid suspicion of religiously motivated bias, according to a recent conclusion reached by the country’s High Judicial and Prosecutorial Council. Lawyers, prosecutors and others employed in judicial institutions can no longer wear the Hijab to work. Whether third parties, such as witnesses, will be permitted to participate in hearings while wearing it will be determined on a case-by-case basis.
This is the first time such a decision has been made in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Although the decision was reached during two sessions in September and October 2015, it was only two weeks ago that the news of it broke, sparking an outcry among citizens and within the Muslim community. The ban applies to the “religious symbols” of all religions.
But many have argued that while a crucifix necklace can be removed or concealed, the same is not true for a Hijab. Hanadi Salkica has been working as a lawyer since 2007 in the central city of Zenica. She says her Hijab is not a religious symbol but a way of life and a personal style of dress. Salkica says she has never encountered a judge or anyone else in a courtroom who has looked at her differently because of it. “It’s sad that amid all the problems we have in this country, they’re interested in such irrelevant issues as whether someone’s way of dress will have an effect on their professionalism,” Salkica says.
“How can you explain a statement made by a prominent representative of the High Judicial and Prosecutorial Council who said in a TV interview that [a covered woman] irritates [others] with her appearance? What does irritate mean? I irritate someone with my appearance just because when they see me, they know that I’m a Bosniak Muslim? It’s unbelievable. “So the problem isn’t with third parties or with lawyers, but rather with head judges who are unable to be objective because when they see someone who irritates them with their appearance, they can’t do their job professionally,” Salkica adds.