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European rabbis: ruling on religious symbols shows faithful 'no longer welcome'

An ultra-Orthodox Jewish man walks past a man dressed up as Santa Claus
Council of European Rabbis says leaders must ensure 'Europe does not isolate religious minorities'

The main Orthodox rabbinical alliance in Europe on Tuesday said a European Union court ruling allowing employers to prohibit staff from wearing religious garb and symbols was a signal that "faith communities are no longer welcome", the Jewish Telegraph Agency (JTA) reports.

The EU's top court ruled that employers could enforce a ban as long as it was based on the company's internal rules requiring all employees to "dress neutrally" and cannot be based on the wishes of a customer, the ruling said.

"An internal rule of an undertaking which prohibits the visible wearing of any political, philosophical or religious sign does not constitute direct discrimination," the Luxembourg-based court said.

“This decision sends signals to all religious groups in Europe,” Rabbi Pinchas Goldschmidt, the president of the Conference of European Rabbis, said in a statement on Tuesday. “With the rise of racially motivated incidents and today’s decision, Europe is sending a clear message; its faith communities are no longer welcome. Political leaders need to act to ensure that Europe does not isolate religious minorities and remains a diverse and open continent.”

The wearing of religious symbols, and especially Islamic symbols such as the headscarf, has become a hot button issue with the rise of populist sentiment across Europe, with some countries such as Austria considering a complete ban on the full-face veil in public.

The leader of the far-right French party National Front, Marine Le Pen, has said she would ban "all religious symbols” in public if elected president, seeing it as a "sacrifice" necessary to fight against radical Islam.


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