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EU court’s religious symbols ban is ‘slap in the face to people of faith’ says Redbridge Sikh leader

PUBLISHED: 07:00 20 March 2017

The EU's highest court has issued a ruling which allows employers to ban staff from wearing visible religious symbols such as a niqab, pictured, or a cross or kippah. Picture:PA/Peter Byrne

The EU's highest court has issued a ruling which allows employers to ban staff from wearing visible religious symbols such as a niqab, pictured, or a cross or kippah. Picture:PA/Peter Byrne

PA Archive/Press Association Images

A Redbridge faith advisor has branded an EU court ruling allowing companies to ban staff from wearing visible religious symbols “a slap in the face to people of faith”.

Harmander Singh, principle adviser at Sikhs In England, blasted the judgement by the European Court of Justice (ECJ) calling the ruling “dangerous” and potentially divisory.

In the first decision on women wearing Islamic headscarves at work, the ECJ, the highest court in the EU, ruled the garments could be banned, but only as part of a general policy barring all religious and political symbols – including Christian crosses and Jewish kippahs.

“It sets a very dangerous precedent towards dividing society forever unless the ruling is reversed.

“One hopes that the ruling was not intended to be anti-faith but it is difficult to imagine how the outcome can be anything but,” said Mr Singh.

He said he thought the ruling could create a division between businesses that were in favour of religious symbols, and those opposed.

Mr Singh commented that it will be a sad day when “market values are seen as more important that moral values” and warned that this judgement was not a thin end of a wedge but a giant leap.

“Integration is a laudable aim but history has shown that forced assimilation leads to far more serious consequences,” he added.

“Luckily, in Britain, we try to respect all faiths equally, but this ruling extends what France has been practicing for years, that is disrespecting all faiths equally.”

The Redbridge Equalities and Community Council (RECC) believes that the legislation, which was meant to apply “across the board to all faiths” was not meant to be discriminatory. David Landau, speaking on their behalf said: “It might not have the intention of discrimination but how it is applied opens the door to discrimination.

“Some groups of people may feel targeted especially those who wear items as an act of religious observance.”

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