Europe

High EU court: workplace headscarf ban not discriminatory

  • FILE - In this Dec.17, 2011 file photo, mannequins with headscarves are on display at an exhibition hall for the Muslim World Fair in Le Bourget, outside Paris. Private businesses in Europe can forbid Muslim women in their employ from wearing headscarves if the ban is part of a policy of neutrality within the company and not a sign of prejudice against a particular religion, the European Court of Justice said Tuesday March 14, 2017. (AP Photo/Christophe Ena, File)

    FILE - In this Dec.17, 2011 file photo, mannequins with headscarves are on display at an exhibition hall for the Muslim World Fair in Le Bourget, outside Paris. Private businesses in Europe can forbid Muslim women in their employ from wearing headscarves if the ban is part of a policy of neutrality within the company and not a sign of prejudice against a particular religion, the European Court of Justice said Tuesday March 14, 2017. (AP Photo/Christophe Ena, File)  (The Associated Press)

  • FILE-- In this June 28, 2009 file photo, women gather during a demonstration in Antwerp, Belgium. Private businesses can forbid Muslim women in their employ from wearing headscarves as long as the ban is part of a policy of neutrality within the company and not a sign of prejudice against a particular religion, the European Court of Justice said on Tuesday, March 14, 2017.  (AP Photo/Virginia Mayo, File)

    FILE-- In this June 28, 2009 file photo, women gather during a demonstration in Antwerp, Belgium. Private businesses can forbid Muslim women in their employ from wearing headscarves as long as the ban is part of a policy of neutrality within the company and not a sign of prejudice against a particular religion, the European Court of Justice said on Tuesday, March 14, 2017. (AP Photo/Virginia Mayo, File)  (The Associated Press)

The EU's Court of Justice says that banning Muslim headscarves in the workplace does not constitute "direct discrimination."

The decision on Tuesday applies to private businesses, but clarifies a long-standing question about whether partial bans by some countries on religious symbols can include the workplace.

The conclusion of the highest court of the 28-nation EU amounts to a victory for French far-right leader Marine Le Pen, a leading presidential contender, who wants to do away with all "ostentatious" religious symbols in the name of secularism.

Opinions were quickly divided. A European anti-racism network ENAR and Open Society Justice Initiative say all Muslim working women risk consequences. French conservative presidential candidate Francois Fillon, also promoting secularism, hailed the decision.