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Twitter anger after EU court ruling allows employers to ban hijab

Fears that ruling on case of two women who were fired for refusing to remove their hijab will worsen discrimination
A woman wearing a headscarf joins a demonstration organised by "Stand up to Racism" outside the French Embassy in London on 26 August 2016 (AFP)

The European Court of Justice (ECJ) ruled on Tuesday that employers have the right to bar staff from wearing religious symbols, in a judgement many see as targeting Muslim women.

The decision came after Belgium’s court of cassation referred the case of a Muslim receptionist, who was fired for wearing a headscarf to work, to Europe’s top court.

This was the court’s first ruling on the issue of Islamic headscarves in the workplace, and the decision comes at a time when immigration and refugee policies have been key issues across Europe.

The issue of Muslim integration and dress has been a prominent source of debate across the continent in recent years, with the face veil being banned in France, Belgium and Austria.

Social media users responded to the ruling with anger and disappointment. 

The joint judgement, on the cases of two women who were fired respectively in France and Belgium for their refusal to remove their headscarves, came on the eve of the Dutch elections. Hoping to make major gains is the anti-Islamist Geert Wilders, leader of the Freedom Party, who wants to ban Islamic symbols, mosques and the Quran from the country.

Users pointed out that the ruling would disproportionately affect Muslim women.

John Dalhuisen, director of Amnesty International’s Europe and Central Asia programme, said that the rulings “give greater leeway to employers to discriminate against women – and men – on the grounds of religious belief. At a time when identity and appearance has become a political battleground, people need more protection against prejudice, not less”.

Whilst the ruling claimed that such bans could not be based on the prejudices of their clients, Dalhuisen added that “by ruling that company policies can prohibit religious symbols on the grounds of neutrality, they have opened a back door to precisely such prejudice”.

Others were baffled as to why the hijab seems to be such a big deal...

And many called out the EU's hypocrisy regarding its claims to be a bastion of freedom.