So the European Court rules in favour of legal discrimination against Muslims. So much for freedom of religion!
Companies can ban Muslim staff from wearing headscarves if the rules are part of a general prohibition on religious symbols in the workplace, according to the European Court of Justice.
The court has published the non-binding opinion in connection with a case taken by former G4S employee Samira Achbita, a Muslim woman who was fired by the company in Belgium for wearing a headscarf at work. The UK services company prohibits the wearing of any visible religious, political and philosophical symbols.
Advocate general Juliane Kokott said that in her view, “there is no direct discrimination on the ground of religion where an employee of Muslim faith is banned from wearing an Islamic headscarf in the workplace, provided that that ban is founded on a general company rule prohibiting visible political, philosophical and religious symbols in the workplace and not on stereotypes or prejudices against one or more particular religions or against religious beliefs in general”.
She went on to say that while a headscarf ban in a workplace could be deemed an indirect discrimination, it could still be justified in order to “enforce a legitimate policy of religious and ideological neutrality”. In this case, Kokott said, the ban was both appropriate and necessary in order for G4S’ neutrality policies to work.
Kokott stated: “While an employee cannot ‘leave’ his sex, skin colour, ethnicity, sexual orientation, age or disability ‘at the door’ upon entering his employer’s premises, he may be expected to moderate the exercise of his religion in the workplace, be this in relation to religious practices, religiously motivated behaviour or (as in the present case) his clothing.”
While the opinion is not a verdict on the case, it is usually a good indication of the argument the European court will follow in its final judgment, which is to be delivered at a later date.