France’s Supreme Court upholds lawyers’ hijab ban in Lille courts

Setting a precedent in the country, a higher French court decided to uphold the ban on lawyers wearing the hijab in courtrooms in the north of the country.

The judgment rendered by the French Court of Cassation on Wednesday concerns the case brought by Sarah Asmeta, a 30-year-old French-Syrian lawyer, who challenged the rule established by the Council of the Order of Lawyers of Lille prohibiting the hijab and religious symbols in court.

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In its judgment, the Court of Cassation said the ban was “necessary and appropriate, on the one hand to preserve the independence of the lawyer and, on the other hand, to guarantee the right to a fair trial”.

Banning the wearing of religious symbols “does not constitute discrimination”, he added.

Asmeta said she was shocked and disappointed with the decision.

“Why does covering my hair prevent my customer from qualifying for a free trial? she told Reuters.

“My clients are not children. If they choose me as their lawyer, with my veil, that’s their choice.

She added that she was considering taking her fight to the European Court of Human Rights.

What Muslim women choose to wear is a controversial topic in France. In 2004 it banned the hijab in public schools and in 2010 it became the first European country to ban the burqa, which covers a woman’s face.

Currently in France, the majority of bars, including the largest in Paris, have internal rules that do not allow religious symbols such as the hijab.

Of the bars representing 75% of practitioners, 56% have banned the wearing of religious symbols with the toga, according to a survey commissioned by Poirret for this case.

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