A European Union court ruling to allow workplaces to ban employees wearing visible religious symbols drew a mixture of reactions from Jewish leaders around the continent.
Tuesday’s ruling – the first by the EU Court of Justice on the issue of women wearing Islamic head coverings at work – was a joint judgment in the cases of two women in France and Belgium who were dismissed for refusing to remove their head scarves.
The court ruled that a Belgian firm may not be guilty of discrimination for its rule, which barred employees who dealt with customers from wearing visible religious and political symbols, in order to project a public image of neutrality.
However, it found a French company, which dismissed a software engineer for refusing to remove her head scarf, may have breached EU laws barring discrimination on religious grounds if it did so not because of a general internal rule, but because of a client’s objection.
The European Jewish Congress and the Conference of European Rabbis both released statements slamming the decision.
EJC President Dr. Moshe Kantor said: “Unfortunately this decision flies in the face of the right to religious freedom laws and could potentially affect many religious groups, including Jews. With so much tension over the issues of minorities and tolerance in Europe, a decision like this can only embolden extremists on either side who utilize issues like this to spread their divisive agendas.”
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