In the midst of an ongoing dispute in India over the ban on hijab in Karnataka educational institutions, the European Union’s (EU) Court of Justice (CJEU) concluded on Thursday that European Union (EU) corporations can restrict hijab if it is part of a larger ban on all headwear.

The EU’s highest court concluded that a blanket prohibition on headwear is not religiously discriminatory towards workers and does not breach EU law.


According to sources, the situation was brought to the CJEU’s notice when a Muslim lady was told she couldn’t wear a hijab when she applied for a six-week work internship at a company in Belgium. Head coverings of any kind – hats, caps, or headscarves — are not authorized under the company’s neutrality policy.

However, the top EU court in Luxembourg underscored that there should be no direct discrimination while the hijab ban is in effect.

“An internal enterprise regulation prohibiting the visible wearing of religious, philosophical, or spiritual signals does not constitute direct discrimination if it is implemented to all personnel in a general and unequal manner,” the justices said.

Following that, a Belgian court referred the case to the CJEU for clarification on EU law. The EU’s highest court ruled that a blanket prohibition on wearing headgear does not violate EU law. The Belgian court must now decide whether the ban is discriminatory.

The CJEU concluded in 2021 that EU firms might prevent employees from wearing headscarves if they needed to project a neutral image. Europe has been divided for years over the prohibition of hijabs. In 2004, France, which has the largest Muslim population in Europe, prohibited the wearing of Islamic headscarves in public schools.

France is also the first European country to outlaw the wearing of full-face coverings such as the niqab and burqa in public. Meanwhile, in Germany, the issue of a headscarf ban mostly concerns prospective public school teachers and trainee judges.

In the Netherlands, niqabs and burqas are not permitted in schools, hospitals, or on public transit. The new EU Supreme Court decision follows the Supreme Court of India’s split verdict in a hijab ban case on Thursday. The lawsuit concerns the Karnataka government’s ban on wearing a hijab in educational institutions in the southern state, as well as the high court’s decision to uphold it.

In the Supreme Court order, Justice Hemant Gupta dismissed all appeals filed against the high court. In contrast, Justice Sudhanshu Dhulia disagreed with the senior judge on the bench and allowed all of the appeals.

The petition has now been forwarded to the Chief Justice of India (CJI) for review and determination by a larger bench.

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