Ban on Muslim fashion: EU is violating human rights!


European companies may forbid staff from wearing Islamic headscarves and other visible religious symbols under certain conditions, the European Union's top court has ruled, setting off a storm of complaints from rights groups and religious leaders.
Such a ban does not constitute what Europe's high court calls "direct discrimination".
The ruling made by the European Court of Justice, the highest court in the 28-nation EU, was in response to two cases brought by a Belgian and a French woman, both fired for refusing to remove their headscarves.
It clarified a long-standing question about whether partial bans by some countries on religious symbols could include the workplace.
The ruling came on the eve of a Dutch election in which Muslim immigration is a key issue.
The court's response also fed right into the French presidential campaign, bolstering the platforms of far-right leader Marine Le Pen, a leading contender in the spring election who wants to do away with all "ostentatious" religious symbols in the name of secularism, and conservative Francois Fillon, who hailed the court's decisions.
Islamic clothing has also prompted similar debate within Australia, with One Nation's Pauline Hanson openly opposing the burka on multiple occasions.
In the lead-up to West Australia's recent election, she told two women wearing hijabs that "you ladies are showing your faces, that's alright", but said she would keep campaigning against sharia law.
'People need more protection against prejudice, not less'
In response to the EU court's ruling, critics quickly voiced fears that the decision risks becoming a setback to all working Muslim women.
"Today's disappointing rulings … give greater leeway to employers to discriminate against women — and men — on the grounds of religious belief," said a statement by Amnesty International.
"At a time when identity and appearance has become a political battleground, people need more protection against prejudice, not less."
The Open Society Justice Initiative, which submitted a brief supporting the women, expressed disappointment.
The group's policy officer, Maryam Hmadoum, contended that the decision "weakens the guarantee of equality that is at the heart of the EU's antidiscrimination directive," which the Court of Justice cited in weighing the cases.
The European Court of Justice made separate decisions on the cases, but linked them.
In the Belgian case, Samira Achbita, a receptionist at a security firm, was fired in June 2006 for wearing an Islamic headscarf, banned in a new set of internal rules by her company that prohibited visible signs of their political, religious or philosophical beliefs.
Belgium's Court of Cassation sought guidance from the Luxembourg-based European court which rules on cases involving EU law, which applies to all EU members.
While the cases were linked by the European court, the French case differs and offers Asma Bougnaoui a reason for optimism because the reasons for her dismissal as a design engineer were based, not on internal rules, but on the complaint of a customer unhappy with her Islamic headscarf.
The court said that an employer's readiness to take into account the wishes of a customer, not internal policy, don't qualify for the measure set out by the European Union: a "genuine and determining occupational requirement".
Critics called the ban a thinly veiled measure targeting Muslims.
"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 ," Warda el-Kaddouri told Al Jazeera 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."
Kim Lecoyer, president of Belgium-based Muslim Women Lawyers for Human Rights, told Al Jazeera the ruling legitimised discrimination on the grounds of religion.
"The court could and should have seized the opportunity to put a halt to the multiple discriminations faced by Muslim women and protect their fundamental rights, but they chose not to," said Lecoyer.
Anti-Muslim nationalism
The wearing of religious symbols, especially the hijab, has become a hot button issue with the rise of nationalist and sometimes overtly anti-Muslim parties across Europe.
Some countries such as Austria are mulling a complete ban on the full-face veil in public, while in France last year local authorities barred women wearing the burkini, the full-body swimsuit, fining those who did. 
Manfred Weber, head of the centre-right European People's Party, the biggest in the European Parliament, welcomed the ECJ's ruling as a victory 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.
Al Jazeera's Natacha Butler, reporting from Paris, said Tuesday's ruling is complex.
"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."
Butler said the court ruled businesses should have the freedom to choose how they operate, and that included choosing whether people would be allowed to wear items such as hijabs or crosses on chains.
"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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All comments [ 1 ]

Elly Doll 7/4/17 18:38

Now, even fashion has been targeted. What on earth does the West claim them as land of human rights and democracy?!

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