EU Court: Members Can Prohibit Headscarf, Other Symbols in Public Offices

EU Court: Members Can Prohibit Headscarf, Other Symbols in Public Offices
Image copyright: Carl Court/Getty Images News via Getty Images (The Hague, Netherlands, March 15, 2017)

The Facts

  • The European Union’s top court ruled on Tuesday that member states can prohibit public employees from wearing overt signs of their religious beliefs. The ruling is most pertinent to the use of Islamic headscarves, which has long been a divisive issue in Europe.

  • The European Court of Justice's (ECJ) decision came in response to a case brought by a Muslim woman who was told she could not wear her headscarf at work. The woman worked as a public employee in the eastern Belgian municipality of Ans and said the ban was discriminatory.

The Spin

Left narrative

The EU continues to target Muslims, and the ECJ’s latest ruling is yet another setback for the rights of Muslim women and girls. Citing "neutrality" as a "legitimate" aim, the EU’s top court greenlighted discrimination against Muslim women in a decision that will dissuade those of the Islamic faith from public service.

Right narrative

European countries have a right to maintain neutrality in their public offices, and groups don't have special privileges to defy established codes regarding dress codes. Countries such as France and Belgium have long-standing traditions of maintaining a neutral and secular environment in all public spaces, and can't modify values based on mass immigration or other trends.

Political split



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