CAIRO - German federal court has rejected an appeal by a Muslim schoolgirl to be excused from swimming classes because she was not comfortable in the mixed pool, igniting fresh concerns about respecting religious beliefs of the religious minority.
The basic right to religious freedom does not... provide for any demand not to be confronted at school with the behavioural habits of third parties - including those pertaining to clothing, the Federal Administrative Court in Leipzig was quoted by Deutsche Welle.
The decision by Germany's top court for public and administrative disputes signals that the state's constitutional obligation to educate children can take precedence over customs and practices linked to an individual's religious beliefs.
The Federal Administrative Court added that the girl could wear an all-over swimming garment sometimes dubbed a "burkini" in order to accommodate her beliefs.
It argued that in the summer, outside of school, men also went about bare-chested and school could not suppress the social reality.
The case was first submitted by the 13-year-old girl, originally from Morocco, who goes to school in the western state of Hesse.
It was filed after her parents failed in their bids to convince the school to allow their girl to skip swimming classes when she was 11 and had been marked down accordingly.
Rejecting the appeal, the federal court agreed with two other courts in Hesse which had already rejected the girl's bid to be exempted from swimming lessons.
The plaintiff has not made sufficiently clear that ... taking part in co-educational swimming lessons with a burkini breaches Muslim rules on clothing, the court added.
Germany is believed to be home to nearly 4 million Muslims, including 220,000 in Berlin alone.
The country is Europe's second-biggest Muslim population after France, and Islam comes third in Germany after Protestant and Catholic Christianity.
The court ruling sparked angry comments from the girl's lawyer for not respecting his plaintiff's religious beliefs.
"The Qur'an not only forbids being seen by others in light clothing but she herself should not see boys and girls with (swimsuits) on," Klaus Meissner, her lawyer, was quoted in German media as saying, Reuters reported.
The 13-year-old Frankfurt pupil argued that wearing "burkini" makes her discriminated among her colleagues in the pool.
The Muslim teenager added that wearing the burkini would still make her feel ashamed and violated her freedom of religious practice.
"I am the only girl in my class who wears a headscarf," said the teenager, adding that she felt stigmatized.
The burkini, a two-piece swimsuit incorporating a head covering, a loose-fitting chemise and leggings, was originally designed for Muslim women to help them practice swimming.
The outfit was originally imported from Turkey and Morocco.
Earlier in 2013, German Chancellor Angela Merkel rejected the idea of separate sport classes for Muslim girls and boys as sending a wrong signal on the country's integration.
In neighboring Switzerland, the federal court rejected earlier this year a request from a Muslim girl to be excused from swimming lessons because the teacher was male, saying that integration was more important than religion.