Is workplace headscarf ban discriminatory?

Employers have the right to bar their employees from wearing a headscarf if the company has a general ban on overt religious or philosophical signs, the ECJ has decided, ruling in favour of a proposition put forward by one of its advocates general in May 2016. Some commentators praise the decision as a step that defend European values. Others see it as sexist and Islamophobic.

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Die Welt (DE) /

Europe finally showing what it stands for

The ECJ's decision goes beyond merely enforcing religious neutrality, Die Welt believes:

“It would be hypocritical to extract the ruling from its temporal context and claim it had nothing to do with the battle of cultures that is currently raging in the Western world and in particular in Europe - even if most people don't want to call it that. ... In view of the migratory movement above all from predominantly Islam parts of the world, and in view of the fact that even the integration of immigrants who arrived long ago hasn't been entirely successful in the eyes of the societies in question (to put it mildly) and in view of the unconvincing attempts to develop a European form of Islam in response to the different movements in the Middle East it can only be seen as good news that the Europeans are making clear what they stand for and what they expect from their citizens - regardless of where they come from or what religion they follow.”

Jutarnji list (HR) /

Religious freedom not affected

Jutarnji list does not believe the ruling is discriminatory:

“The ban applies only for the workplace and only for private companies. But what is far more important is that it is only applicable if it affects all ideologies equally. As a general rule it may not be applied if effectively it only affects Muslims who wear a hijab. It can be applied if, for example, it also affects nuns who wear a veil. So this decision doesn't contradict an earlier ruling under which crucifixes can be hung on the walls at Italian schools and courts, because these are not private companies. The French ban on religious symbols in public places also remains unaffected.”

The Independent (GB) /

Unscrupulous discrimination

The headscarf ban is sexist and Islamophobic, The Independent counters:

“Proponents of such policies deceptively tell the public these decisions will emancipate Muslim women from the proposed shackles of Islam. Yet, what these laws represent is a discriminatory form of social engineering to try and enforce Muslim women to adopt a secular identity. Such discriminatory and openly xenophobic policies contradict Europe's inherent belief that it is a bastion of freedom in an otherwise barbaric and intolerant world. The hypocrisy is galling to say the least - the very European leaders that pit themselves against supposedly misogynistic and regressive societies in the Muslim world have no qualms in applying discriminatory and gendered Islamophobia towards Muslim women in their own countries.”

Público (PT) /

ECJ has opened a Pandora's box

The ECJ's ruling could pave the way for blanket discrimination against Muslims in Europe, Público fears:

“In future it will be far more difficult to make dress codes compatible with religious freedom. The court has created a precedent by giving a ruling on an issue that until now had been a matter of free choice and common sense. … What next? The closing down of all mosques, a ban on Islam, the expulsion of all Muslims? These are all measures that Europe's far right has already contemplated. The premises they are based on are old: immigrants should accept our rules, full-body veils are a security issue, and women who wear headscarves or other religious symbols are being oppressed. … Are we talking about human rights here or Islamophobia?”