Amnesty says veil bans rob Muslims of jobs, education

Tue Apr 24, 2012 2:31pm EDT
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By Tim Castle

LONDON (Reuters) - Bans on full-face veils in France and Belgium and a failure by other European countries to stop employers from enforcing informal dress codes means Muslim women are being denied jobs and education, Amnesty International said on Tuesday.

In a wide-ranging report highlighting examples of discrimination against Muslims across Europe, Amnesty said governments were pandering to prejudices by stopping Muslim women from wearing full-face veils and urged France and Belgium to repeal their own bans on such veils.

"Muslim women are being denied jobs and girls prevented from attending regular classes just because they wear traditional forms of dress," said Amnesty researcher Marco Perolini.

"Rather than countering these prejudices, political parties and public officials are all too often pandering to them in their quest for votes," he added.

The human rights group said countries like Belgium, France, Switzerland and the Netherlands were also failing to prevent employers enforcing informal policies that banned religious dress - such as headscarves worn by many Muslim women - on the grounds of preserving neutrality, promoting a corporate image or pleasing customers.

Pupils in these countries and others had also been barred from wearing religious and cultural dress, it said.

"Women should be able to wear whatever they prefer ... States have focused so much in recent years (on) the wearing of full-face veils as if this practice were the most widespread and compelling form of inequality that women have to face," the report said.

Amnesty called on the European Union to ensure European legislation banning discrimination by employers on the grounds of religion or belief was properly implemented across its 27 member states.   Continued...

A women, wearing a niqab despite a nationwide ban on the Islamic face veil, gives a phone call outside the courts in Meaux, east of Paris, September 22, 2011. REUTERS/Charles Platiau