Amnesty International (AI) [advocacy website] on Monday challenged European governments to do more to address discrimination against Muslims [report, PDF], especially in the areas of employment and education. The report states that many women are denied jobs or access to classrooms simply because they are wearing traditional forms of dress, such as a headscarf [JURIST news archive]. Men also reportedly face discrimination for growing beards in a style traditionally associated with Islam. The report documents cases in European countries, such as Belgium, France, Netherlands, Spain and Switzerland, that have restrictions on building places of worship and have banned full face veils. AI says the restrictions are in direct conflict with existing EU anti-discrimination laws. Marco Perolini, AI's expert on discrimination, stated [press release]:
Any restriction to the wearing of religious and cultural symbols and dress in schools must be a based on assessment of the needs in each individual case. General bans risk adversely [affecting] Muslim girls' access to education and violating their rights to freedom of expression and to manifest their beliefs. The right to establish places of worship is a key component of the right to freedom of religion or belief which is being restricted in some European countries, despite state obligations to protect, respect and fulfill this right.AI called on European countries to address the stereotypes and either reform or uphold existing legislation in accordance with EU anti-discrimination legislation.
In January, Dutch lawmakers announced that a ban [JURIST report] on burqas [JURIST news archive] and other full face coverings will go forward later this year. If enacted, the Netherlands will become the second European country, after France [JURIST report], to ban the burqa. In August, an Italian parliamentary commission approved a draft law [JURIST report] that bans women from wearing full-face veils in public. In July, Belgium implemented a law banning women from wearing the burqa [JURIST report] in public, with violators facing the possibility of fines or up to seven days in jail. Last April, a Dutch court upheld a ban on Islamic headscarves [JURIST report] at a Catholic college saying the prohibition was in line with the school's interest in maintaining its Catholic character. In 2009, a similar ban was instituted in all Dutch-speaking Belgium schools [JURIST report]. That same year, Swiss voters approved [JURIST report] a constitutional ban on the construction of minarets by a margin of 57.5 to 42.5 percent.