Hijab test in Europe by Jasmine M. El-Gamal

A recent ruling by the highest court in the European Union raises the question of whether there is a place for visibly Muslim women in public life. Rather than asking whether Islam is liberal enough to belong to Europe, the most relevant question today seems to be whether Europe is liberal enough to accept Muslim women.

LONDON – Mid-July, the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) ruled that private employers in the EU can prohibit employees from wearing religious symbols, including headscarves, in order to present an image of “”political, philosophical and religious neutrality“in the workplace. The verdict reaffirmed a 2017 CJEU decision and highlights long-standing tensions over multiculturalism in Europe. In particular, this raises the question of whether there is a place for visibly Muslim women in European public life.

I have spent the last few months interviewing Muslim women, many of whom are citizens and residents of European countries, about their representation in the media and their perception of belonging to their country. While many have reported similar experiences of ostracism or harassment, European women, especially those who choose to wear the hijab (head covering), have told me over and over again: “I feel like not to exist ”.

The hijab is more than a religious symbol for those who wear it. Muslim women cover their hair by tradition, to maintain a connection with their cultural heritage or for reasons of modesty. Several young European women I spoke to explained that they wore the hijab despite protests from their immigrant families, who did not want them to be subjected to undue scrutiny or discrimination at work.

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