EU court consents headscarf prohibition

(MENAFN) The European Court of Justice (ECJ), the highest court in the European Union, has issued a landmark ruling allowing government employers to enforce bans on the wearing of religious attire in a bid to maintain an "entirely neutral administrative environment." The decision, released on Tuesday, emerged from a case in Belgium where a Muslim woman contested her municipal employer's directive to remove her hijab while at work.

According to the ECJ's verdict, bans on the overt display of religious clothing are deemed legal, granted they apply universally to employees of all religions. The enforcement of such bans must also be limited to "what is strictly necessary" to uphold an atmosphere of neutrality. The court specified that state authorities can permit workers to wear symbols of religious or political belief as long as dress policies are uniformly applied.

However, it's essential to note that the ruling is applicable primarily to backroom workers or those with minimal public interaction. In a previous ruling in 2021, the ECJ determined that women in public-facing roles could be dismissed for refusing to remove their headscarves.
This recent case reached the ECJ after a Muslim woman employed by a local authority in the Belgian town of Ans was instructed not to wear her hijab at work, despite her limited interaction with the public. In response, she initiated a legal challenge against the municipality, arguing that "discreet signs of conviction," such as crucifix earrings, were tolerated. The case, initially heard in a labor court in Liege, eventually reached the Luxembourg-based ECJ, echoing a similar ruling last year concerning private companies and brought forth by another Belgian Muslim.


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