European Court’s Anti-Hijab Ruling Discriminates Against Muslim Citizens

01 Jul 2004

The Muslim Council of Britain disagrees strongly with Tuesday’s ruling by the European Court of Human Rights, Strasbourg, in the case of Leyla Sahin v Turkey. The international court, whose decisions also have effect in the UK Courts, ruled that the prohibition of the Islamic headscarf (hijab) by the Turkish government in universities did not violate Article 9 of the European Convention of Human Rights.

“It is worrying that the European Court of Human Rights has made the surreptitious claim that a Muslim woman trying to follow the Qur’anic injunction to dress modestly presents a public order problem in Universities. It is further bewildering to consider the Court’s denial of a woman’s freedom to dress as she chooses to be in pursuance of gender equality,” said Iqbal Sacranie, Secretary-General of the Muslim Council of Britain.

While the military-guided Turkish political system is still struggling with necessary democratic reforms, this ruling of the European Court of Human Rights will have the effect of importing a restrictive and draconian practice into our democratic and pluralist European environment.

Indeed, the ECHR’s ruling is all the more perplexing as it had previously ruled that: “Freedom of thought, conscience and religion is one of the foundations of a ‘democratic society’ within the meaning of the Convention … The pluralism indissociable from a democratic society, which has been dearly won over the centuries, depends on it.” (Kokkinakis v. Greece (1993).

The Muslim Council of Britain calls on the Council of Europe to now remove this serious lacuna in EU human rights law. Europe today needs to pay more than lip service to our human rights and come out of its past mentality where these rights existed only for a certain section of Europeans.

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Note for Editors:

The Muslim Council of Britain (www.mcb.org.uk) is the UK’s representative Muslim umbrella body with over 400 affiliated national, regional and local organisations, mosques, charities and schools.

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