Europe has started to enshrine Islamophobia into law - history tells us this can't end well

There will be those who hail today's decision as a victory for Europe's long held secular ideals. However, history tells us that such excuses are always used to justify much more sinister trajectories

by Sofia Ahmed - 14 March 2017

Islam and Muslims are no longer welcome in Europe
. If that message wasn't already clear to most people it has been set in to law today by EU judges. The decision by the European Court of Justice to allow employers to ban staff from wearing the headscarf seems certain to only further marginalize and push Muslim women out of public life.

What with France's ban on the niqab in 2010, and countries such as Germany wanting to follow suit, the trend of enshrining Islamophobia into law is becoming increasingly common. Proponents of such policies deceptively tell the public these decisions will emancipate Muslim women from the proposed shackles of Islam. Yet, what these laws represent is a discriminatory form of social engineering to try and enforce Muslim women to adopt a secular identity.

Such discriminatory and openly xenophobic policies contradict Europe's inherent belief that it is a bastion of freedom in an otherwise barbaric and intolerant world. The hypocrisy is galling to say the least - the very European leaders that pit themselves against supposedly misogynistic and regressive societies in the Muslim world have no qualms in applying discriminatory and gendered Islamophobia towards Muslim women in their own countries.

They conveniently ignore the impact that such legislation is having on the lives of ordinary Muslim women. An inquiry by the Women and Equalities Committee found that Muslim women were three times less likely to be employed. The report highlighted the role of "unconscious bias" in discrimination against women that wear the hijab or have Muslim sounding names.

A similar report by the European Network Against Racism, which covered eight countries ranging from France to The Netherlands, suggests that the such discrimination in the workplace and it's negative impact on Muslim women is widespread across Europe.

Economic marginalization is of course not the only obstacle that women must face due to decisions like the one made today. There are much more dire consequences for the average woman on the streets of London or Paris. With reports of a woman in hijab being dragged along the streets of London and another woman attacked and bitten for wearing hijab in Vienna, what kind of message does this sends out to those people that find a piece of cloth offensive enough to attack a woman for it?

Alarmingly, the decision the EU judges made is strikingly like the anti-Jewish legislation that was passed in Germany prior to the Second World War. The Nuremberg laws specifically targeted a social group by restricting them on an economic level. Jews were banned from professions such as midwifery and law, and state contracts were cancelled with Jewish owned businesses. That is not dissimilar to telling a woman that she is not welcome at a workplace if she decides to identify as a member of a given faith.

There will be those that hail today's decision as a victory for Europe's long held secular ideals. However, history tells us that such excuses are always used to justify much more sinister trajectories. This new ban is a worrying indication of Europe's hostility towards its Muslims citizens.

Let us not forget that it was in times of similar social and economic upheaval that Europe's Jews became the scapegoats for all of society's ills. It's increasingly becoming apparent that history might be repeating itself as Muslim women become the new victims of Europe's identity crises ensuing from its social and economic woes.

Muslims in western countries need to start moving back before it's too late and what was done to the Jews be done to them.

EU workplace headscarf ban 'can be legal', says ECJ

14 March 2017

Workplace bans on the wearing of "any political, philosophical or religious sign" such as headscarves need not constitute direct discrimination, Europe's top court has ruled.

But the ban must be based on internal company rules requiring all employees to "dress neutrally", said the European Court of Justice (ECJ).

It cannot be based on the wishes of a customer, it added.

This is the court's first ruling on the wearing of headscarves at work.

The ECJ's ruling was prompted by the case of a receptionist fired for wearing a headscarf to work at the security company G4S in Belgium.

The issues of Muslim dress and the integration of immigrant communities have featured prominently in debates in several European countries in recent years. Austria and the German state of Bavaria have recently announced bans on full-face veils in public spaces.

Rights group Amnesty International said Tuesday's ECJ rulings were "disappointing" and "opened a backdoor to... prejudice".

What's the background to the decision?

The ECJ was ruling on the case of Samira Achbita, fired in June 2006 when, after three years of employment, she began wearing a headscarf to work.

She claimed she was being directly discriminated against on the grounds of her religion and Belgium's court of cassation referred the case to the EU's top court for clarification.

At the time of Ms Achbita's hiring, an "unwritten rule" had been in operation banning overt religious symbols, and the company subsequently went on to include this explicitly in its workplace regulations, the court explained.

Does the ruling affect other religious symbols?

G4S's rules prohibited "any manifestation of such beliefs without distinction", and were therefore not directly discriminatory, the court said.

It said "an employer's desire to project an image of neutrality towards both its public and private sector customers is legitimate" - but national courts had to make sure this policy of neutrality was applied equally to all employees.

In practice, such a policy must therefore also ban other religious insignia such as crucifixes, skullcaps and turbans, the court confirmed to the BBC.

But the court was not absolute in its ruling - workplaces still have a duty to show that they have also not enabled indirect discrimination - whereby people adhering to a particular religion or belief are in practice put at a particular disadvantage, unless that is "objectively justified by a legitimate aim" achieved by means that are "appropriate and necessary".

For instance, the Belgian court ruling on Ms Achbita's case would need to ascertain whether it could have been possible to offer her another post not involving visual contact with customers.

What if a customer complains about a headscarf?

That won't do - the court ruled that any ban could not be based on "subjective considerations" such as the preferences of an individual customer.

"The willingness of an employer to take account of the wishes of a customer no longer to have the services of that employer provided by a worker wearing an Islamic headscarf cannot be considered a genuine and determining occupational requirement," the court said.

It was referring to another case referred to in this ruling - that of design engineer Asma Bougnaoui, who lost her job at French firm Micropole, after a customer complained that she wore an Islamic headscarf.

A French court would have to determine whether the company in this case had dismissed Ms Bougnaoui solely to satisfy a customer or in accordance with a wider internal prohibition on religious symbols, the court ruled.

How has this ruling been received?

For years, courts across Europe have faced complex decisions on religious symbols in the workplace.

Jonathan Chamberlain, a partner at UK firm Gowling WLG, told the BBC that Tuesday's ruling reflected "what has been the UK's approach for some years".

Germany's constitutional court ruled in 2015 a ban on teachers wearing the headscarf across the country's 16 states was unconstitutional. Such a measure was only justified if religious symbols represented a "concrete danger, or the disturbance of school peace".

John Dalhuisen, director of Amnesty International's Europe and Central Asia program, said the ECJ's decision gave "greater leeway to employers to discriminate against women - and men - on the grounds of religious belief".

"The court did say that employers are not at liberty to pander to the prejudices of their clients. But by ruling that company policies can prohibit religious symbols on the grounds of neutrality, they have opened a backdoor to precisely such prejudice."

The Conference of European Rabbis said: "With the rise of racially motivated incidents and today's decision, Europe is sending a clear message; its faith communities are no longer welcome."

But the British Humanist Association's Andrew Copson said: "We need to take an approach that balances everyone's rights fairly and we are pleased that the European Court of Justice has today appeared to reinforce that principle."

Countries that oppress Muslim Women.