This is a published article. The original can be found here.
There has been a lot of hysteria following a ruling by the European Court of Justice (ECJ) stating that employers will have the right to forbid their staff to wear visible political or religious symbols on the street. workplace.
Although the ban is seen as a direct attack against Muslims, the ECJ has stated that the ban does not translate into “direct discrimination” and that giving companies the right to prohibit “any political sign , philosophical or religious “offers an opportunity to maintain a neutral image.
Although the judgment does not discriminate against Muslims, it is based on the case of two Muslim women, in France and Belgium, who were dismissed from their workplace for refusing to take off their headscarves.
While the government has really wanted to calm the growing religious tensions in Europe, it finally creates more problems than it solves and eventually generate friction. First, this prohibition appears to be in direct contradiction to Article 18 of the Charter of Human Rights, which states that “everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes the freedom to change one’s religion or belief, and the freedom to manifest one’s religion or belief, alone or in common, in public or in private, through teaching, practices, worship and the fulfillment of rites “.
Freedom of expression, whether in the form of a controversial speaker, a satirical magazine like Charlie Hebdo or a scarf as a symbol of religious belief, is a cornerstone of Western society. Restricting this freedom in the name of a more “Western” or “liberal” society is an appalling oxymoron and a worrying sign if it reflects the nature of future solutions.
In addition, this ban will directly affect Muslim women workers who choose to wear the hijab. These women should not be embarrassed. These women should be accepted with their faith. These women have chosen to take an active part in society and are positive role models for other Muslim women. By removing this perspective, these women will be forced to choose between their faith and their financial independence. Many of these women will favor their religion, which will prevent many women from entering the labor market, exacerbating integration problems, which will lead to increased financial dependence for Muslim women, weakening their already complex position in the labor market. Western and global society.
What European leaders must understand is that secularism should not be used as a tool to criticize expressions of religious beliefs and practices. On the contrary, secularism must be implemented and interpreted as a principle that protects the exercise of religious freedom. A secular state should be neutral on issues of belief and not seek to suppress religion in the public sphere. In addition, this hostility to religious symbols shows a weak secular society, which resorts to the prohibition rather than the promotion of freedom of expression.
With a growing anti-Muslim sentiment and a rise in xenophobic bigotry, the current period is complex for Muslims living in the West. The ruling of the ECJ is likely to lead to increased friction and social tension in European societies at a time when faith and practice have become a very sensitive issue. Western liberals have long criticized, and rightly so, many Muslim nations that fail to accord equal rights to their minorities. Why is the ECJ preparing to deny these rights to minorities living in Europe?
Finally, this hostility to religious symbols shows a secular society that is not sure of itself, and uses bans rather than the promotion of freedom of expression.