By Askin Kiyagan
VIENNA (AA) – An education company in Austria has banned its staff from wearing visible religious symbols following the decision of the EU’s top court to allow such a block, local media said Wednesday.
BFI, which runs around a dozen vocational colleges across the country, said it had banned its employees from wearing “every kind of visible” religious symbol, the Kleine Zeitung newspaper reported.
In an interview hours after the European Court of Justice said it did not constitute “direct discrimination” to ban the wearing of any “political, philosophical or religious sign”, company executive Wilhelm Techt said his staff would comply with “Western culture”.
He told the newspaper: “We should transfer Western culture and values without misunderstandings. Therefore, educators have to work in Western clothes.”
He added that BFI numbered around 1,000 asylum seekers among its thousands of students. It has around 430 teaching staff, according to the company’s website.
Although the ruling applies to all outward signs of political or religious affiliation, Muslims have described the court’s ruling as a direct attack on women wearing the hijab, or headscarf.
Ibrahim Olgun, head of the Austrian Islamic Society, said the decision would reduce the number of Muslim women in the workplace.
“There will be a serious discrimination against Muslim women,” he said. “We see the reflections of this in the BFI example. The decision will exclude our women who wear headscarves from society.”
The judgment came in the cases of two women in France and Belgium, dating back to 2008 and 2003 respectively, who were dismissed for refusing to remove their hijabs at work.