By Macaela Mackenzie. Photos: Getty Images.
In let’s-all-take-a-step-backwards news, the European Union’s highest court ruled this week that employers in Europe can legally ban hijabs at the office.
On Tuesday, a court in Luxembourg ruled it was legal to bar women from wearing hijabs—as long as the company has a policy that bans all religious garb. While, technically, the ruling applies to symbols across religions and political bents, it comes in the midst of a European election season during which feelings towards Islamism have been under the microscope and conservative politicians have been gaining popularity, reports The Guardian.
Though not official, the ruling feels especially tailored to Muslim women. The decision comes as the result of two separate lawsuits—both by Muslim women. In the first, a Belgian woman was fired from a security company where she’d worked for three years when she started wearing a hijiab. The company said she’d broken “unwritten rules” on religious symbols at work, according to The Guardian. In the second suit, a Muslim woman in France was fired from a tech firm after a customer claimed his employees were “embarrassed" by the hijab she wore during a presentation. In this case, the court ruled in her favor, stating customers cannot ask an employee to remove a headscarf unless the company has a policy against them already in place. Last summer, French municipalities sparked outrage when Muslim women were prohibited from wearing swimwear that covers the body and the head, better known as the burkini.
Considering the current social climate around hijabs—especially in the global arenas of fashion and sports—this seems like a major step backwards. This year, Somali-American Halima Aden made history as the first Muslim model to walk in fashion week wearing a hijab, hitting runways from new school Yeezy to old school Alberta Ferretti (and before that she made history as the first contestant to wear a burkini in a beauty pageant). In the world of sports, Nike made major news earlier this month by announcing plans to release a sport-friendly hijab, leveling the playing field for Muslim athletes.
With the EU’s ruling in the mix, it looks like two steps forward and one step back when it comes to fighting hijab-based discrimination.
This story originally appeared on Allure.
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