ReutersBRUSSELS (Reuters) — Companies may ban staff from wearing Islamic headscarves and other visible religious symbols under certain conditions, the European Union’s top court ruled on Tuesday, setting off a storm of complaint from rights groups and religious leaders.
In its first ruling on an issue that has become highly charged across Europe, the Court of Justice (ECJ) found a Belgian firm which had a rule that employees who dealt with customers should not wear visible religious or political symbols may not have discriminated against a Muslim receptionist it dismissed for wearing a headscarf.
The judgment on that and a French case came on the eve of a Dutch election in which Muslim immigration is a key issue and weeks before a similarly charged presidential vote in France, where headscarves are banned in public service jobs.
French conservative candidate Francois Fillon hailed the ECJ ruling as “an immense relief” to companies and workers that would contribute to “social peace.”
But a group backing the fired employees said the ruling may shut many Muslim women out of the workforce. European rabbis said the Court had added to rising incidences of hate crime to send a message that “faith communities are no longer welcome.”Speech