The European Union’s [official website] highest court released an advisory opinion [text] Wednesday stating that Asma Bougnaoui, a French Muslim woman who lost her job in 2009 for wearing a head scarf, was unlawfully discriminated against. The opinion found that Bougnaoui’s release was not related to her ability to perform at work, rather it was directly related to her religious belief. However, the opinion noted, had Bougnaoui been wearing something that covered her face completely, the opinion may have been different. The court is expected to issue a formal judgment in the coming months. While the advisory opinion is not binding on the court, it is likely to be adopted.
Face veils and other symbols of religion have been a controversial subject around the world. Last year the US Supreme Court [official website] ruled [opinion, PDF] in favor of a Muslim woman who was denied a job [JURIST report] at Abercrombie & Fitch [corporate website] because of her headscarf. In September a Canadian court ruled that women may be allowed to wear [JURIST report] face-covering veils while swearing the oath of citizenship after an individual sued the country because she was not allowed to take part in the ceremony. Also in 2015, after suicide bombings in Fotokol by two women wearing burkas, Northern Cameroon banned [JURIST report] women from wearing burkas and face-covering veils as the bombs had been smuggled into public under veils. In July 2014 the European Court of Human Rights ruled [JURIST report] that France’s face covering ban is permissible under European law and complies with all articles of the Convention of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms and does not violate freedom of religion. In February 2013 the Spanish Supreme Court struck down [JURIST report] a city ban on wearing veils over the face in municipal buildings, finding that the law infringes on religious freedom.