Islam and Muslims are no longer welcome in Europe. If that message wasn’t already clear to most people it has been set in to law today by EU judges. The decision by the European Court of Justice to allow employers to ban staff from wearing the headscarf seems certain to only further marginalise and push Muslim women out of public life.
With France’s Niqab ban in 2010, and countries such as Germany wanting to follow suit, the trend of enshrining Islamophobia into law is becoming increasingly common. Proponents of such policies deceptively tell the public these decisions will emancipate Muslim women from the proposed shackles of Islam. Yet, what these laws represent is a discriminatory form of social engineering to try and enforce Muslim women to adopt a secular identity.
Such discriminatory and openly xenophobic policies contradict Europe’s inherent belief that it is a bastion of freedom in an otherwise barbaric and intolerant world. The hypocrisy is galling to say the least – the very European leaders that pit themselves against supposedly misogynistic and regressive societies in the Muslim world have no qualms in applying discriminatory and gendered Islamophobia towards Muslim women in their own countries.
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They conveniently ignore the impact that such legislation is having on the lives of ordinary Muslim women. An inquiry by the Women and Equalities Committee found that Muslim women were three times less likely to be employed. The report highlighted the role of “unconscious bias” in discrimination against women that wear the hijab or have Muslim sounding names.
A similar report by the European Network Against Racism, which covered eight countries ranging from France to The Netherlands, suggests that the such discrimination in the workplace and it’s negative impact on Muslim women is widespread across Europe.
Economic marginalisation is of course not the only obstacle that women must face due to decisions like the one made today. There are much more dire consequences for the average woman on the streets of London or Paris. With reports of woman in hijab being dragged along the streets of London and woman attacked and bitten for wearing hijab in Vienna, what kind of message does this sends out to those people that find a piece of cloth offensive enough to attack a woman for it?
Alarmingly, the decision the EU judges made is strikingly like the anti-Jewish legislation that was passed in Germany prior to the Second World War. The Nuremberg laws specifically targeted a social group by restricting them on an economic level. Jews were banned from professions such as midwifery and law, and state contracts were cancelled with Jewish owned businesses. That is not dissimilar to telling a woman that she is not welcome at a workplace if she decides to identify as a member of a given faith.
There will be those that hail today’s decision as a victory for Europe’s long held secular ideals. However, history tells us that such excuses are always used to justify much more sinister trajectories. This new ban is a worrying indication of Europe’s hostility towards its Muslims citizens.
Let us not forget that it was in times of similar social and economic upheaval that Europe’s Jews became the scapegoats for all of society’s ills. It’s increasingly becoming apparent that history might be repeating itself as Muslim women become the new victims of Europe’s identity crises ensuing from its social and economic woes.