Religious identity isnt something you can take off in public. The European court of justice has turned the headscarf into a emblem of resistance
This weeks decision by the European court of justice to allow the hijab to be banned in the workplace is yet another sign of the continents obsession with how Muslim girls dress.
The ruling states that the hijab can be banned merely as part of a policy barring all religious and political emblems and so framed in a way that doesnt immediately target Muslim girls. Indeed, the Conference of European Rabbis was outraged, saying that the ruling sent a clear message that Europes faith communities were no longer welcome and a number of religious communities, including Sikhs, will be affected.
However, theres no doubt that Muslims are the main group in the line of flame. Thats why far-right groups across the continent were so delighted with it. Of course companies have to be allowed to ban the wearing of headscarves, said Georg Pazderski, of Germanys hardline Alternative fr Deutschland. Even the ECJ votes Marine[ le Pen ], tweeted the French MP Gilbert Collard, a Front National supporter.
Of course, you dont have to be far right to welcome a ban on the visible wearing of any political, philosophical or religious sign. Many liberals too believe that religion has no place in a secular western society. Theres clearly no discrimination, they say, given that under the same ruling Christians would not be able to wear the cross.
However, the hijab doesnt fit neatly under the bracket of being a religious emblem. Its not the equivalent of a piece of jewellery that displays pride in your religion, and which can easily be concealed to stop people feeling uncomfortable. For its wearers the hijab is a core part of their way of life, linked to the style they choose to practise their religion. It is not up for debate.
By permitting a ban on the hijab, Europe is essentially permitting a ban on Muslim women in the workplace.
Think Im exaggerating? Consider for a moment what the real effects of a hijab prohibit in the workplace is likely to be. Do we really believe that women who have a religious conviction to wear the headscarf are just going to take it off when they start their task each day? Im sorry, but thats not how it works.
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