Headscarf ban seems to be the same as kippah ban


European Union


A nurse wearing a headscarf while working at a retirement home in Germany. Photo AFP, John Macdougall

European businesses are allowed to ban headscarves from their workplaces. But they can only do so when they forbid all other symbols, such as kippahs, as well. The European Court of Justice decided that on Thursday.

Prohibiting headscarves is no form of direct discrimination, if and only if other religious symbols are banned from the workplace as well, judges from the European Court of Justice ruled, as reported by La Croix.

The judicial case started with an issue of an internship candidate in Belgium. Her employer had asked her to remove her headscarf. However, she refused to comply with the neutrality policy of the company. Instead, she offered to wear a different type of headcover. However, she was still denied the position of the internship. The business argued that headcovers, such as caps, hats or scarves, were not allowed on its premises. As a result, the woman took her case to the anti-discrimination body and the Labour Court in Brussels. She claimed that the refusal of the internship violated Belgian law and comprised a form of discrimination based on religion.

Banning a headscarf in the workplace is not a form of discrimination, the European Court now ruled. “As each person is likely to have either a religion or religious, philosophical or spiritual beliefs, such a rule, provided that it is applied in a general and undifferentiated manner, does not establish a difference in treatment based on religion or these beliefs”, the judges stated.

The European Court did not provide a ruling specific to this case, the German press agency Idea notes. It only set the rule that a headscarf ban is not generally forbidden. The judges advised the Brussels Court to investigate whether the headscarf ban has an “objective character” and responds to a “genuine need” demonstrated by the employer.

Christmas ban

However, a general ban on religious symbols is not easy to implement, the German Anti-Discrimination Commissioner, Ferda Ataman, reacted to the verdict. Ultimately, this ban would result in a ban of everything religious, she says, according to Evangelisch.de. “That includes crosses, headscarves and Christmas celebrations”, she explains. According to Ataman, companies should see religious diversity in the workplace as a lived reality, at least in Germany. “I am glad that many companies in Germany see diversity not as a problem but as an asset.”



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