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RELIGION

German employers can ban headscarves ‘in some cases’, EU court rules

Employers can in principle ban staff from wearing headscarves in the workplace, an EU court ruled Thursday in two cases brought by Muslim women working in Germany.

German employers can ban headscarves 'in some cases', EU court rules
Three women in headscarves stand in Berlin's Kreuzberg district. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/dpa-Zentralbild | Monika Skolimowska

A ban on religious symbols such as headscarves “may be justified by the employer’s need to present a neutral image towards customers or to prevent social disputes”, the European Court of Justice said in a statement.

The employer must also show it is not discriminating between different beliefs and religions in its policy, the court said.

The two women, a cashier in a chemist and a special needs carer, had taken their cases to German courts after being prohibited from wearing headscarves at work.

READ ALSO: IN NUMBERS: A breakdown of Germany’s Muslim population

The German courts had then referred the cases to the ECJ for an interpretation of EU law.

The woman working at the chemist had been employed there since 2002 and had initially not worn a headscarf, but had wanted to begin wearing one after returning from parental leave in 2014.

However, the chemist instructed her to come to work “without conspicuous, large-sized signs of any political, philosophical or religious beliefs”, the ECJ said.

The second woman was employed in 2016 as carer at a non-profit association and had initially worn a headscarf at work.

She too went on parental leave, during which time the association issued a policy prohibiting the wearing of visible signs of political, ideological or religious conviction in the workplace for employees with customer contact.

READ ALSO: Germany upholds headscarf ban for trainee Muslim lawyers

After returning from parental leave, she refused to remove the headscarf, which resulted in several warnings and eventually in her being dismissed.

National courts must examine in each individual case whether company rules are compatible with national laws on religious freedom and the need for a “policy of neutrality”, the ECJ said.

There must be “a genuine need on the part of the employer” for such a policy, it said, and it must also not go against “national provisions on the protection of freedom of religion”.

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CRIME

Police in Sweden block Danish extremist’s new demo

Police in western Sweden have rejected an appeal by the Danish extremist Rasmus Paludan against a decision to deny him permission for a Koran-burning protest in Borås.

Police in Sweden block Danish extremist's new demo

“Rasmus Paludan has a rhetoric which is intended to create disorder and chaos,” Emelie Kullmyr, the police officer in charge of protecting this year’s General Election in Western Sweden, said in a press release.

“We have seen how the public has been exposed to serious danger and police officers have been injured. The task of the police is to ensure security and we will do that, but all positive forces need to be helped to maintain peace and order.” 

In the press release, the police emphasised the importance of the public’s right to demonstrate and express their opinions freely, but said that the right to hold public demonstrations could still be curtailed in “exceptional cases”. 

READ ALSO: 

Paludan, who aimed to hold the demonstration on April 29th, can now appeal the police’s decision at the local civil court in Borås. 

He has now applied to hold on May 1st rallies in Uppsala and Stockholm for his far-right party Stram Kurs, or “Hard Line”. 

Koran-burning demonstrations held over the Easter holidays in the cities of Norrköping, Linköping, Malmö, Örebro, and in the Stockholm suburb of Rinkeby, led to the worst riots Sweden has seen in decades, with 100 police officers injured.

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