- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 14, 2017

The European Union’s high court issued a ruling Tuesday that allows employers to ban Islamic headscarves and any other “visible signs of political, philosophical or religious beliefs.”

Two cases brought before the European Court of Justice (ECJ) have been settled with far-reaching implications for citizens of faith. Judges ruled on a 2006 from Belgium in which a woman at the security company G4S was fired for wearing a headscarf at work for religious reasons, and another from France involving an engineer fired after customer complaints.

“The court of justice finds that G4S’s internal rule refers to the wearing of visible signs of political, philosophical or religious beliefs and therefore covers any manifestation of such beliefs without distinction,” the judges concluded, the Guardian reported. “The rule thus treats all employees to the undertaking in the same way, notably by requiring them, generally and without any differentiation, to dress neutrally.”

The court said said that implementing such rules does “not constitute direct discrimination,” but that doing so after customer complaints was a different matter.

“In the absence of such a rule, the willingness of an employer to take account of the wishes of a customer no longer to have the employer’s services provided by a worker wearing an Islamic headscarf cannot be considered an occupational requirement that could rule out discrimination,” the court said.

ECJ said French courts must now decide if plaintiff Asma Bougnaoui was unjustly fired from the IT consultancy firm Micropole.

Religious and civil rights groups reacted with dismay, saying the 28-member political union has given a green light to isolate faith communities.

“It will lead to Muslim women being discriminated in the workplace, but also Jewish men who wear kippas, Sikh men who wear turbans, people who wear crosses,” Maryam H’madoun, at the Open Society Justice Initiative, the Guardian reported. “It affects all of them, but disproportionately Muslim women.”

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