EU top court rules hijab ban is OK if part of general restriction
The Luxembourg-based Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU), however, stated that no direct discrimination should be in place while imposing the headscarf ban.
The European Union's (EU) top court said on Thursday companies can prohibit wearing of headscarves as long as it is a part of a broader ban, and one that does not discriminate against employees. The latest ruling in the matter, which has long rocked Europe and triggered debate over the integration of Muslims, is associated with a case concerning a Muslim woman who was told she could not wear a headscarf (hijab) when she applied to do a six-week work traineeship at a Belgian firm, Reuters reported.
The company based its decision on a neutrality rule, which means no head covering or any expression of religious or political beliefs - whether a cap, beanie or scarf, will be permitted on its premises. The woman took her case to a Belgian court, which subsequently sought advice from the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU).
The Luxembourg-based top EU court, however, stressed that no direct discrimination should be in place while imposing the hijab ban.
"The internal rule of an undertaking prohibiting the visible wearing of religious, philosophical or spiritual signs does not constitute direct discrimination if it is applied to all workers in a general and undifferentiated way," Reuters reported the judges as saying.
The latest ruling by the CJEU is in line with the top court's judgment from last year when it said that EU firms could impose a hijab, or any other type of headscarf ban under certain conditions, if they wanted to project an image of neutrality among customers.
Hijab bans in Europe
The continent has long been embroiled in the row over hijab ban. In Germany, the issue has been hotly contested, primarily pertaining to aspiring teachers at state schools and trainee judges. The country houses over five million Muslims, making them the largest religious minority group, Al Jazeera reported.
Elsewhere in Europe, France - which is home to largest Muslim minority in the continent - banned wearing of hijab in state schools in 2004.
Similarity with India
The latest EU top court's ruling comes amid the split verdict in a hijab ban case delivered by the Supreme Court in India on Thursday. The matter is related to the hijab ban imposed by Karnataka government in the southern state's educational institutions, and the verdict of the high court to uphold it.
In the SC ruling, Justice Hemant Gupta dismissed all appeals filed against the high court. However, Justice Sudhanshu Dhulia differed from the senior judge on the bench and allowed all the appeals.
The matter has now been referred to the Chief Justice of India (CJI) for a larger bench and appropriate decision.