A couple of weeks ago the European Court of Justice decided to introduce the ban on religious, political, and philosophical expressions in the form of clothing for employees. This means that employers are allowed to refuse female employees who wear a head scarf, in application of the rules drawn up by the European court.

On the internet I read the first couple pieces concerning the matter. Some of the responses were that this ban was not merely an attack on the freedom of choice for women. One also stated that this primarily affects a group already in a vulnerable position because of the Islam interpretation of some people. The ban could result into Muslim women wearing a head scarf being banned from the public eye.

From a legal point of view the European Court can defend itself because the ban does not make a distinction between religions. If we throw aside all our personal convictions concerning this ban, we can state that this is true; there is no such thing as discrimination when the ban is equal to all citizens, regardless of their religious, political, or philosophical beliefs.

There are two sensitivities surrounding this subject. The role of a visible expression such as wearing a head scarf is different from the interpretation of wearing a kippah or cross. It reminds me of the situation of a Jewish man and a Muslim woman. He chooses to take off his kippah when he, because of his religion, finds himself in threatening surroundings, while she will not take off her head scarf in similar situations.

We can say that every conviction, related to religion or not, leads to your own course of action, and the choice of doing or not doing something has a value of its own. For Muslims the head scarf is a part of the body and the mind, and those two are inextricably linked. You can ask yourself if forcing people to stop living their life based on their religion solves anything. If we look at the abovementioned situation, I have my doubts. The Jewish man feeling threatened is just as evident as the customer who does not like to be helped by a female employee wearing a head scarf, while the feeling of the latter is often forgotten, and we still do not have regulations that will help us deal with this matter.

Then there is another sensitivity. This ban should ensure a neutral attitude toward customers. I think this matter is even more important than the discussion on how people choose to make their religious, political, and philosophical convictions known, and whether they are allowed to or not. A neutral attitude means carrying out the policy of the employer in order to meet the objectives set by the company. Every supervisor assumes that an employee has the necessary capabilities to achieve these objectives. Someone’s religious, political, or philosophical convictions will always influence the character and personality of the employee, because whatever we think, shapes us. However, when practicing these convictions does not harm others, it will not hinder the employee’s performance, and it will help him achieve the company’s goals.

Being a good employee is mostly about quality, skills, and knowledge.

When we look at the ban closely, it comes down to the fact that society desires neutrality in the field of religion, politics, and philosophy. Visible manifestations of religious, political, or philosophical convictions would prevent us from being good employees. However, it is remarkable that it is not the employee with the religious, political and/or philosophical convictions who feels restricted. It is the customer, the opposing party who objects to visible manifestations. It is striking that the uninformed mindset of this group caused by different factors is considered a legal problem. “Today I don’t like you as a human being, you influence me, and that is why I will go to court.”

In order to comply with the wishes of the opposing party one opts for a sanction (a ban). As such the diversity of solutions is overlooked and reduced to a mere possibility. Which reality hides behind a visible manifestation of religious, political, or philosophical preference no longer matters.

The future will tell if solving the problem that was the cause of this ban, belongs on legal grounds. In addition, over time it will be evident if the rules that accompany the ban are enough to solve the existing problems and prevent others. But perhaps then it will be too late. The road to a society where there is room for everyone, was already difficult to access. A ban that confirms that people have already condemned each other, makes this road even more difficult.

It is extremely regrettable that in a case such as this, one does not devote sufficient attention to causes which have led to the ban, and to long-term solutions, but that one merely focuses on treating the symptoms. It only makes the work for the people who work day in day out to fight prejudices on religious, political, and philosophical convictions even harder.

You could almost say that because of the introduction of the ban the success stories of employees with a visible religious, political, and philosophical background don’t exist, even though that is not my reality.

According to some people this ban is the result of a legal system that exists above all other forms of laws, including the divine laws. The people who have other convictions should, therefore, be better off moving to another country. I think this is the start of an era in which the compelling subjective perspective will be placed above the humane. And that is only possible in a world in which the customer becomes the emperor.

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