A European (Muslim) Ban?

Mar 23, 2017

By Acy

When things get tough, there’s a script demagogues know by heart:

1. Avoid talking about real matters
2. Find a scapegoat
3. Make people pour hatred on your chosen scapegoat
4. Look smugly at the place where freedom used to be

The time is now; the scapegoats are Muslim women; yet the demagogues are not Donald Trump, or Geert Wilders or some right-winger. It’s the European Union.

The European Court of Justice ruled that employers may ban staff from wearing visible religious symbols. With ever more far-right politicians reaching for the reins of power and public opinion increasingly obsessed with an “invasion” of immigrants that is essentially non-existent, Europe’s stamp of approval on discrimination is just what European society needs.

The hypocritical ruling follows two separate cases brought by Samira Achbita in Belgium and Asma Bougnaoui in France. In these cases, these Muslim women were fired for wearing a headscarf in their workplaces.

From the ECJ: An internal rule of an undertaking which prohibits the visible wearing of any political, philosophical or religious sign does not constitute direct discrimination.

In the case of Achbita, her firing was based on an “unwritten” rule in her company; Bougnaoui was warned before taking the job that her way of dressing could lead to problems.

Employers claim their companies couldn’t offer clients a “neutral image,” if employees wear a headscarf. Following this logic, one could say that if you go to work wearing a Pikachu sweater, the company founder, colleagues and even the CEO, are clearly all Pokémon fans.

We shouldn’t be fooled. There is nothing wrong for a firm to say it wants to provide a “neutral image” to clients, but the reality is different. A court ruling which pretends to be in favor of “neutrality” and “equality” aims to annihilate the differences in which free choice, free speech and free thought reside.

With this logic, it won’t be long until an employee is dismissed because he or she said “I love Jesus” or “I like the color pink.” The ECJ ruling allows firms to put discriminatory practices in company policy.

Berlin’s Georg Pazderski of the AfD didn’t hesitate to praise the ECJ ruling: “Of course companies have to be allowed to ban the wearing of headscarves because the headscarf is often much more than a religious symbol. For many people, it represents an anti-constitutional attitude and a political statement of oppression”.

Who are these “many people”? In Germany, populist — self-proclaimed “real German” — parties against freedom of religion certainly exist, but have Muslims living in Berlin ever formed a union to subdue Christians? How is wearing a scarf on one’s head unconstitutional? And why did Pazderski focus just on headscarves — didn’t the court rule that any political sign was equally reproachable?

Now imagine the outrage Pazderski would undoubtedly show if a Christian in Istanbul, for example, was fired because he wore a cross at work. This thinking is the way of bigotry.

More from the ECJ: in the absence of such a rule, the willingness of an employer to take account of the wishes of a customer no longer to have the employer’s services provided by a worker wearing an Islamic headscarf cannot be considered an occupational requirement that could rule out discrimination.

The ECJ is so magnanimous that if a customer spits in your face because you are Muslim, but the firm itself doesn’t, you can still keep your job. Don’t worry! Someone will apologize to the client because you had the gall to be yourself.

The court’s formulation is meant to be convoluted and misleading. Such a rule would be a statement made by a company about “neutrality” — we want to be unbiased, the rule would say, so no employee shall wear a headscarf. To prove we are unbiased, the company will say, we are of course not just referring to the headscarf but to any political, philosophical or religious sign.

Yet it will be hard to imagine that companies will start indiscriminately firing employees who wear crosses, T-shirts with Che Guevara’s face or a hat emblazoned with the words, “The starry heavens above me, the moral law within me”?

And isn’t a wedding ring a symbol of religious beliefs? How many employers will have to fire themselves according to this arbitrary rule? It’s clear that the strategy is to target Muslims, and that companies will take full advantage of this ECJ ruling to simply get rid of Muslim female employees.

Let’s break it down: if a woman displays in her dress a symbol of her culture or religion, she loses her job. Is this not discrimination?

Many people will argue that the headscarf is “a symbol of oppression” and “doesn’t apply to our values.” Yet I don’t see how forcing a woman not to wear a headscarf would be less oppressive than forcing her to wear one.

Freedom — or what we think is freedom — cannot be imposed. Freedom should mean that every woman has the right to choose if she wants to wear a headscarf or not.

The European Court of Justice should speak for all Europeans – it should protect equal rights.

If to affirm our liberty we demand that other people are discriminated against, then we have a serious problem. The ECJ ruling is unacceptable and must be repealed. As Europeans, we need to fight for this.

Otherwise, Europe will become the place where freedom used to live.