The European ruling on headscarves opens the way to rank discrimination

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It’s a puzzle that so many religious people identify themselves by what they wear. Among Christians I find it macabre that they choose to wear, in gold around their neck, an instrument of one of the cruellest tortures known to man. But they do. It’s their choice and no one else’s business.

Today the European court of justice confirmed the right of private employers to fire staff for wearing headscarves or other religious insignia. All an employer need do is claim a policy of an “image of neutrality”. This judgment springs from two cases of Muslim women in Germany dismissed for wearing headscarves. The German courts found the sackings not only discriminatory but in contravention of the country’s constitution – but the case proceeded on up to the ECJ, which had opined in 2017 that employers do have the right to sack women in headscarves. There’s a strange legal clash here, as the European convention on human rights – which is independent of the European Union, although every EU country must sign up to it – proclaims freedom to manifest religious belief.