How the Latest EU Headscarf Ruling Violates the Freedom of Religion

Op-ed

The wearing of the conventional headscarf by Muslim women has, over the years, elicited controversy all across Europe. Nonetheless, this belief has made courts take advantage of these spiritual rights to facilitate fascism. As stated by the Turkish presidency's communication director, Fahrettin Altun, “this wrong decision is an attempt to grant legitimacy to racism.”

What exactly took place? This past Sunday, Turkey criticized a decision by the EU’s highest court, the Luxembourg-based European Court of Justice, also known as the ECJ, to enable companies to prohibit the wearing of headscarves under “certain conditions.”

The EU’s latest headscarf ruling infringes on human fulfillment

This verdict that strips away the religious freedoms of Muslim women was made on Thursday after cases brought by two Muslim women in Germany who were suspended from their workplaces after they began wearing headscarves at labor.

Thursday's EU ruling came on top of a related one back in 2017, when G4S, a British safety firm, fired a Muslim woman in Belgium named Achbita for similarly insisting on wearing her veil.

​​The first woman was a childcare worker and was suspended twice from her work position, and her workplace administered a written warning for wearing her headscarf. In addition, the childcare center had prohibited multiple staff members from wearing any spiritual symbols to work.

The Guardian clarifies that the second woman, a sales assistant at a chemist, was warned not to wear any item of clothing which was deemed a conscious political, philosophical, or religious symbol. But the employee explained that her head covering was necessary for her religion and declined the chemist’s veto.

The court ruled in favor that a corporation could excuse its ruling if they want to “present a neutral image towards customers or to prevent social disputes.” (DW) A "neutral image" was a "legitimate aim,” it reported, even if it resulted in "particular inconvenience for such workers,” the court announced.

It was even more legitimate if "in the absence of such a policy of neutrality, [a company's] freedom to conduct a business would be undermined," it broadened. But corporation policy must be applied "without distinction" to one faith or another and "treat all workers of the undertaking in the same way,” the EU court said.

The fact that the court believed Muslim women wearing their traditional headscarves would provoke all sorts of civil conflicts is enough to assert that the EU court made this order under an ethnical injustice foundation.

The Hijab Became a Political Debate Instead of a Personal Decision in the Media

In response, Ibrahim Kalin, spokesperson for Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, the Turkish president, said via Twitter that the move would motivate Islamophobia. “The decision by the European court of justice on [headscarves] in the workplace is another blow to the rights of Muslim women,” he said. He announced it would “play right into the hands of those warmongers against Islam in Europe” and asked: “Does the concept of religious freedom now exclude Muslims?”

When inquired, The Turkish Foreign Ministry said the decision indicated increasing Islamophobia when Muslim women in Europe are being subjected to boosted discrimination for their spiritual principles.

The recent version of the Basic Law (Grundgesetz) of May 23, 1949, is the constitution of the Federal Republic of Germany. Article four of this affirms freedom of religion in Germany and states that "the freedom of religion, conscience and the freedom of confessing one's religious or philosophical beliefs are inviolable.”

Meaning, the German constitution restricts spiritual discrimination and gives autonomy of faith and conscience and the practice of one’s religion. Because Germany has no state church, the source of the relationship between state and theology is the independence of religion enshrined in the Basic Law, the divergence of church and state in the sense of the state's religious impartiality, and the right to self-determination of religious societies.

Muslims are frequently endangered by all sorts of discrimination; hate speech, bigotry, violence, exclusion in socioeconomic areas, and “Muslim women are adversely affected by this situation,” the Turkish ministry added.

Unfortunately, no constitution, no federal hearings, and no bills that conserve human rights will ever be enough to prevent the unethical choices of other individuals. Racism and xenophobia have always prevailed, but now it’s terrifying that these fascist efforts are being spread to the highest courts of power.

All Muslims, especially those Muslim women being targeted by their religion, deserve to quit living in fear and start living in freedom. Of course, this applies to all humans, but the same minority groups are the ones who keep being unjustly oppressed.

If federal courts prevent people from attaining complete religious freedom, then we can’t count on other individuals to uphold anti-racist values. The fear these Muslim women now have is that other people might look at the ECJ court and say, “If they can be fascist against their spiritual beliefs, why can’t we?”

Instead of moving forward, this is just making everything move back.

Marta Fernández
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Marta Fernández is a rising college freshman currently residing in San Juan, Puerto Rico. As a young teenager, she has aspired to become an activist. Her ambition is what individualizes her as a person.