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Turkish vice president slams EU for allowing hijab bans

The European Union's top court ruled that employers can bar employees from wearing religious clothing in certain circumstances.

A top Turkish politician slammed the European Union on Tuesday for its recent ruling allowing bans on Islamic headscarves.

Turkey’s vice president said the EU decision “destroys” religious freedom, according to Turkey’s official Anadolu Agency.

“I strongly condemn such an ambivalent decision that destroys the freedom of religion and conscience,” said Fuat Oktay.

The European Court of Justice ruled last week that European businesses can prohibit employees from wearing visible signs of their religious, philosophical or political beliefs in order to "present itself in a neutral manner to customers or to prevent social conflicts.” The ruling is conditional, however, and the employer must demonstrate a need to ban the object in question, Euronews reported.

The decision by the EU’s top court will affect Muslim women, who sometimes cover their heads with a headscarf known as the hijab. The latest lawsuit on the issue was brought by two German Muslim women who were asked to not wear their headscarves at work, according to Euronews. The decision is also relevant to the Jewish community, in which men sometimes wear a religious hat known as a kippah.

Oktay further asserted that the decision constituted “violence and discrimination.”

The vice president’s comments did not come out of nowhere. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is a frequent commentator on populist Muslim causes in Europe. Last year, Erdogan criticized remarks made by French President Emmanuel Macron following the murder of French teacher Samuel Paty. The late educator was killed after showing an image of Islam's Prophet Muhammad during a class on freedom of expression.

Turkey has a complicated relationship with the European Union. Turkey applied to join the supranational body in 2005 and is still a candidate. The momentum has stalled in recent years due to concerns about human rights in the country. Turkey’s Bosporus Strait and part of its largest city Istanbul are located in Europe. The rest of the country is in Western Asia, aka the Middle East.

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