Tuesday

5th Jul 2022

EU firms free to ban Muslim headscarves, jurist says

  • A headscarf ban "may be justified in order to enforce a legitimate policy of religious and ideological neutrality pursued by the employer", the EU court's jurist said. (Photo: Valentina Pop)

Companies in the EU can ban Muslim employees from wearing headscarves to work, a senior jurist has said in a case involving British security firm G4S.

The headscarf ban “may … be justified in order to enforce a legitimate policy of religious and ideological neutrality pursued by the employer”, Juliane Kokott, a German advocate general at the EU Court of Justice in Luxembourg, said in a statement on Tuesday (31 May).

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

She said the ban must be based on “a general company rule” on religious symbols of any type and must be “proportional”.

She added that the issue is so “delicate” that national courts should have “a measure of discretion which they may exercise in strict accordance with EU rules”.

Kokott’s opinion is not binding on the final verdict of the EU court, but it is a strong sign of what the final “clarification” will say.

The case arose when G4S fired Samira Achbita, a Muslim receptionist at one of its offices in Belgium, because she refused to come to work without her scarf.

She sued for damages in Belgian courts and won the backing of the Belgian Centre for Equal Opportunities and Combating Racism, a government agency.

But judges ruled against her on two occasions. Her appeal is currently being heard by Belgium’s Court of Cassation, which asked the EU court for a “clarification” before issuing its final ruling.

Kokott added that the Belgian court should look at details of the case, such as “size and conspicuousness of the religious symbol, the nature of Ms Achbita’s activity and the context in which she must perform her activity, as well as the national identity of Belgium”.

Belgium is a traditionally Roman Catholic, but secular society. Five years ago, it banned wearing of the full-face Islamic veil in public.

Kokott said G4S was right to have a no-symbol policy “because of the special nature of the work which G4S employees do” and because Muslim scarves or other religious paraphernalia would have “a defining impact … on the image of the firm”.

She said “freedom of religion is one of the cornerstones of a democratic society”, but that people “may be expected to moderate the exercise of [their] religion in the workplace”.

France tries to defuse burkini row

The interior minister warns against "stigmatisation" of Muslims after a woman was fined for wearing a scarf and leggings on a beach.

Opinion

Romania — latest EU hotspot in backlash against LGBT rights

Romania isn't the only country portraying lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people as a threat to children. From Poland and Hungary in EU, to reactionary movements around the world are prohibiting portrayals of LGBT people and families in schools.

News in Brief

  1. Turkey signs Nato protocol despite Sweden extradition row
  2. European gas production hit by Norway strike
  3. EU Commission told to step up fight against CAP fraud
  4. Ukraine needs €719bn to rebuild, says PM
  5. Germany records first monthly trade deficit since 1991
  6. Pilots from Denmark, Norway, and Sweden strike
  7. Report: EU to sign hydrogen deal with Namibia
  8. Israel and Poland to mend relations

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic and Canadian ministers join forces to combat harmful content online
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers write to EU about new food labelling
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersEmerging journalists from the Nordics and Canada report the facts of the climate crisis
  4. Council of the EUEU: new rules on corporate sustainability reporting
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers for culture: Protect Ukraine’s cultural heritage!
  6. Reuters InstituteDigital News Report 2022

Latest News

  1. EU Parliament sued over secrecy on Nazi MEP expenses
  2. Italy glacier tragedy has 'everything to do' with climate change
  3. The Digital Services Act — a case-study in keeping public in dark
  4. Report slams German opposition to new child sexual abuse rules
  5. Is China a challenge to Nato? Beijing responds
  6. ECB announces major green shift in corporate bond-buying
  7. Ex-Frontex chief 'uninvited' from parliament committee
  8. Czech presidency and key nuclear/gas vote This WEEK

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us