EU ALLOWS EMPLOYERS TO BAN HIJAB, MUSLIMS REACT

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[EU]–Following the European Union’s top law court ruling on Tuesday, employers are now permitted to ban their workers from wearing clothes or accessories containing religious symbols.

Validating the controversial trend of European job-owners banning women from wearing hijab at work, the European Court of Justice (ECJ) has said that such practice does not amount to “direct discrimination” if a firm has an internal rule banning the wearing of “any political, philosophical or religious sign”.

The judgement was given in relation to country cases involving two women, in France and Belgium, who were let go from their work places for refusing to remove their hijabs which they saw as representative of their faith.

Muslims have fired back, calling it a blatant attack on the rights of Muslim women to freely express their religious beliefs.

“A ban on religious and political symbols feels to me as a disguised ban on the hijab. I cannot think of another symbol that will affect hundreds of thousands of people in Europe ,” said Warda el-Kaddouri, an academician from Brussels.

“By stating that veiled women can simply take off their hijab, you imply that the empowerment of women to be in control of their own body and to make individual decisions is reserved for white women only.”

Also adding to the criticisms, Kim Lecoyer, president of Belgium-based Muslim Women Lawyers for Human Rights, told Al Jazeera that all the the ruling does is make discrimination based on religion legitimate.

“The court could and should have seized the opportunity to put a halt to the multiple discrimination faced by Muslim women and protect their fundamental rights, but they chose not to,” said Lecoyer.

The issue of hijab has been a heavily-debated one throughout Europe.

Manfred Weber, head of the European People’s Party was glad about the ECJ’s decision, calling it a triumph for European values.

“Important ruling by the European Court of Justice: employers have the right to ban the Islamic veil at work. European values must apply in public life,” Weber said in a tweet.

Some have remained ambivalent over the matter. Journalist Natacha Butler called Tuesday’s court decision a complex matter.

“The idea behind it is that companies have the freedom to choose whether or not they want to present a so-called neutral image and what they want to do to benefit their business.

“It’s going to be very complicated to rule on such cases within each country, because it will come under the jurisdiction of each separate nation in the EU, because there are so many shades of grey what constitutes discrimination against somebody’s religious freedom or not,” she said.




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