BY ISHITA ROY
Religious freedom has been a hot debate for a long time. What differs the West from the oriental idea of religious freedom is the separation of the state and the church. Now, we have to understand that when I say separation from the church. It means separation from all sorts of religious institutions.
The principles of separation of the state from the church stir up the debates around wearing religious symbols. Hijabs, Burqa, or Niqabs have always been a controversy in Europe. These are worn by Muslim women as a religious symbol, often covering their face or head. Due to security reasons as CNN has reported in 2010, legal bans on burqas were justified as an anti-terrorism measure.
Separation Of The Church From The State
In some European countries, following the separation of the church and state. All religious symbols are banned in state-funded institutions.
France for instance forbids veils in public institutions. This applies to publicly funded schools or any other institution of the state. The Netherlands however has forbidden Islamic headscarves on the grounds of state neutrality.
In some cases, the veil is often seen to be disrupting one’s profession. In the profession of teaching, face-to-face communication and eye contact are given the utmost importance. Therefore, in Britain, the employment tribunal’s judgment has stated against any form of face-covering clothing in the line of teaching.
EU’s Judgement On Hijab :
Recently, two cases were brought by women in Germany. They were refused to wear headscarves in the workplace. Ruling on the case, on July 15, 2021, the Court of Justice of EU’s judgment allowed a ban on Hijab. The court stated that an employer may limit “workplace expression of religious beliefs where there is a genuine need.” The judgment came out to uphold the state’s neutrality principles.
The court has further stated that these restrictions are not discriminatory in nature. But do you really agree with this?
Why Muslim women’s religious identity is excluded from religious freedom? Why are Muslim women expected to choose between their religious identity and right to work? Don’t Muslim women also have right over their own bodies?
These are some real questions to delve into.
What’s Wrong With The Judgement?
Some may argue that headscarves are a symbol of suppression. A symbol of patriarchy. And on the grounds of the state’s neutrality, it is only fair to rule against suppression. Patriarchy intertwined with religion does lay out a very smooth way to control women’s bodies. And thus, the rules on clothing. However, what we need to understand is that whether to wear a headscarf should be a woman’s choice.
Neutrality on the other hand is a very subjective topic. Often it is thrown vaguely and casually to justify the Islamophobic conditioning.
If a woman wears and chooses to represent herself through religious symbols, then she should not be stopped. A woman should be able to do her job. And identify herself with her religious beliefs.
It is correctly said that the judgment is a blow on Muslim Women’s rights. And we should not stay silent about it. We should question what neutrality is? We should question the Islamophobic conditioning. And use our privilege. The platforms we have. To raise our voices. It is time that women take control of their bodies, without the state’s interference.