Caution and concern over EU ‘headscarf ban’

Dr Rachel Woodlock

The State’s equality watchdog has said a landmark EU court ruling regarding Islamic headscarves did not mean blanket bans by employers on wearing religious signs were lawful.

The Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission (IHREC) said it was still examining the rulings by the European Court of Justice, which it said have binding effect on member states.

The rulings mean employers can forbid staff from wearing headscarves, or any other visible religious garment, where it is part of a general prohibition policy.

However, the court also ruled customers cannot demand that workers remove headscarves if the company has no policy barring religious symbols.

IHREC chief commissioner Emily Logan said: “The commission is examining these ECJ rulings, but at the outset, it is important as Ireland’s national equality body to emphasise that the rulings do not constitute a blanket statement that workplace bans on the wearing of visible signs of political, religious or philosophical belief are lawful.”

Muslim academic Rachel Woodlock said the ruling was “targeting Muslim women in particular” and was part of an ideology of “enforced secularism”.

Dublin Imam Umar Al-Qadri said the ruling meant that working Muslim women “must hide their identity” and said it seemed to be part of a “shift towards assimilation” in the West.

The Irish Council for Civil Liberties expressed concern that the ruling did not appear to place weight on the importance of freedom of religion in society.

Contact IHREC at;; 01 8589601


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