Muslim refugee in Germany has been fired from an internship at her local town hall after she refused to remove her headscarf.
The town’s mayor told the woman she could not wear the headscarf, as government workers had to be seen to be neutral.
But the decision has been controversial, with critics saying it has no basis in German law.
The 48-year-old Palestinian woman, who has not been named under German privacy laws, won an internship at Luckenwalde town hall under a special programme to help refugees integrate in German society.
But when she turned up to her first day at work, she was confronted by the town’s mayor, Elizabeth Herzog von der Heide.
“We told her that a neutrality requirement applies here,” Ms von der Heide told Bild newspaper.
“Religious symbols have no place in our government. We also do not allow crucifixes on the walls.”
The incident comes amid growing debate across Europe over traditional Islamic dress codes for women.
Several French towns have banned burkini swimsuits on their beaches, and women have been ordered to remove them by police.
In Germany, Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrat party (CDU) has called for a ban on women wearing burkas or full-face veils while driving and at schools and universities.
Ms von der Heide’s decision was praised by the far-Right Alternative for Germany (AfD) party. But Mrs. Merkel’s party condemned it as a step too far.
“There is no legal basis for the mayor’s decision,” Sven Petke, a local CDU councilor said.
The CDU’s proposed burqa ban applies to government workers, but the party stopped short of a call for banning headscarves.
While burqas and full-face veils are vanishingly rare in Germany, and a ban on them is largely symbolic, headscarves are common among the country’s Muslim minority.
The German constitution protects the right to wear religious symbols, and most experts believe a general ban on Islamic headscarves or veils would be overturned.
But the courts have ruled that specific workplace bans for government officials are legal.