Turkey condemns EU court ruling on headscarf ban as a violation of freedoms

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The towers of the Court of Justice of the European Union can be seen in Luxembourg, January 26, 2017. Photo taken on January 26th, 2017. REUTERS / Francois Lenoir / File Photo

ANKARA, July 18 (Reuters) – Turkey on Sunday criticized a ruling by a top court in the European Union that allows headscarves to be banned under certain conditions as a “clear violation of religious freedom”.

The Luxembourg-based EU Court of Justice (ECJ) ruled on Thursday that companies in the block can, under certain conditions, prohibit employees from wearing a headscarf if this is necessary in order to give customers a neutral image. Continue reading

The Turkish Foreign Ministry said in a statement that the ruling was a sign of growing Islamophobia at a time when Muslim women in Europe are increasingly discriminated against based on their religious beliefs.

“The decision of the ECJ at a time when Islamophobia, racism and hatred, which have taken Europe hostage, are on the rise, disregards religious freedom and creates a basis and legal protection for discrimination,” the ministry said.

The Turkish Presidency’s communications director, Fahrettin Altun, condemned the move on Saturday, saying: “This wrong decision is an attempt to legitimize racism.”

The subject of hijab, the traditional headscarf that is worn around the head and shoulders, has been controversial in Europe for years and underlines the sharp differences in the integration of Muslims.

The Islamist-based AK party of Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan, which came to power in 2002 with a pro-Western, democratic market approach, has been criticized by Western allies for increasing authoritarianism and religious intolerance in recent years. The United States, Greece, Russia and church leaders expressed concern last year about his administration’s move to convert Hagia Sophia in Istanbul into a mosque last year.

Ankara has repeatedly accused European nations of not doing enough to prevent discrimination against Muslims and announced it will publish an annual report on so-called examples of Islamophobia around the world.

In response to the question of whether headscarf bans in the workplace constitute a violation of religious freedom, the ECJ said that such bans are possible if justified by the need for a neutral image of the employer.

Relations between Ankara and the bloc are strained over a number of issues, most notably a dispute between EU member Greece and Turkey over maritime jurisdiction and energy rights in the eastern Mediterranean.

Reporting by Tuvan Gumrukcu Editing by Frances Kerry

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.



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