An EU court adviser has said that companies should be allowed to ban Islamic headscarves from the workplace, but only if all other religious and political symbols are banned as well, in a move that’s a victory for common sense.
The opinion was issued by Juliane Kokott, an Advocate General to the European Court of Justice (ECJ) who said that while an employee cannot ‘leave their sex, ethnicity, age or disability at the door’, he or she may be expected to moderate exercise of religion in the workplace.
The long-debated topic arose once again after a Belgian court sought clarification on what is banned by EU anti-discrimination laws.
In the case, a receptionist wore her headscarf to work and was subsequently fired for wearing it.
Claimant Samira Achbita told the court how she was being discriminated against on the grounds of her religion.
The latest opinion by Ms Kokott suggests that if visible religious or political symbols are banned as part of company dress code or uniform policy, the hijab should not be exempt as it falls under exactly the same category.
Likewise, if such symbols are allowed in the workplace, so should the hijab.
The advocate general’s findings are not binding but the EU court typically follows the adviser’s recommendation.
A ruling from the European Court of Justice is expected later this year. The Belgian court will rule on the matter thereafter.
The wearing of headscarves or full-face veils has been an increasingly touchy debate in Europe between the forces of secularism and some sections of the continent’s Muslim community.
There are already some headscarf bans in schools and public institutions in Belgium and France whilst protests have been seen by women donning the hijab, calling them ‘liberating’ not ‘oppressing’.