July 25, 2021

Never resolved, the question of wearing the veil is reflected in Belgium

The issue of wearing the Islamic headscarf is making a strong comeback in the Belgian political debate, following a recent court ruling. It again divides the main parties and the various governments of the country. The possible inclusion of the principle of secularism in the country’s Constitution is another scarecrow for the political world.

On May 3, the Brussels Labor Court condemned the Société des transports intercommunaux de la ville-région (STIB) for “discrimination based on religious convictions and gender”. Magistrates had been seized of a complaint lodged by a woman wearing the Islamic headscarf, claiming that she had been excluded from a job for that reason alone.

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A severe order, accompanied by the payment of compensation of 50,000 euros for the first employer in the region, which until now based its policy on “exclusive neutrality” and therefore prohibits the wearing of any political or religious sign. and philosophical to its some ten thousand employees, of a hundred different nationalities.

“Inclusive neutrality”

Logically, the general management of the company should have lodged an appeal, as his lawyer advised him. Believing the subject to be particularly sensitive – it has never been resolved, despite three decades of hesitation – it nevertheless preferred to submit it to its management committee, in which the political parties making up the regional government are represented.

Conclusion: a little more confusion. The committee was divided: three votes, socialists and environmentalists, to renounce the appeal, three in favor of it, namely the representatives of management and of another party in power, Independent Federalist Democrat (DéFI, centrist). The vote of the chairman of the committee, a Flemish ecologist, counting double, however, the company admitted the judgment of first instance and now sided with the principle of “inclusive neutrality”. And thus to the tolerance with regard to the port of veil.

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This was without taking into account the intervention of the regional government commissioner, an official acting as a link between the supervisory authority and the public body. This representative of the Flemish Liberal Party – also a member of the majority – has, as the law allows, lodged a suspensive appeal against a decision deemed contrary to the general interest. It is therefore, from now on, the regional government, a colorful and totally divided coalition, which will have to decide the question, before June 21. It is threatened with bursting – DéFI indicates that, failing an appeal from the ordinance, it will leave it – and the federal government, composed in a fairly similar way but also including the Reform Movement (MR, right liberal francophone) is him. also involved in controversy.

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