On Tuesday (14 March), the European Court of Justice (ECJ) ruled against two Muslim women who claimed employment discrimination after being fired from their jobs for wearing hijab, modest religious dress which includes a headscarf.
British legal experts say that the ruling will automatically remain enforced in the UK until it has actually split from the EU. This process will take about 2 years. After this period, it is unlikely that a British court would overturn the ruling.
A related British court case in 2012 had the opposing outcome. A guard at Buckingham Palace successfully opposed the military’s opposition to his turban. While this court case does not directly overturn this ruling, it opens possibilities for future opposition.
A 2007 British airways ban on Christian crosses was also struck down in court because headscarfs and turbans were permitted for religious reasons. The grounds for this decision were that the ban did not treat religious groups equally.
UK employers and legal experts, however, do not see the ruling as a major reversal of British legal approaches of the past. One reason for this is that companies still cannot ban religious garb for any reason other than “neutrality” of uniforms, including if customers complain. The courts in the UK will still likely avoid extreme positions on individual cases.
Muslims organisations in the UK, including the Muslim Council of Britain, see the ruling as an affront to equality.
A British judge on Monday sentenced the ringleader of a plot to bring down trans-Atlantic planes with liquid explosives to at least 40 years in jail and three fellow British Muslims to long prison sentences. The sentences for the planned suicide bombings were among the longest ever handed out by a British court in a terrorism case.
Ringleader Abdulla Ahmed Ali, 28, was given a minimum sentence of 40 years for plotting the biggest terrorist attack since Sept. 11, 2001. Assad Sarwar, 29, was ordered to serve at least 36 years in prison and Tanvir Hussain, 28, was sentenced at least 32 years. A fourth man, Umar Islam, 31, was found guilty of conspiracy to murder and received a minimum of 22 years. Jurors were unable to decide in his case whether he intended to target aircraft in the plot.
The men had planned to smuggle explosives aboard the planes disguised as soft drinks and detonate them while flying. Prosecutors said they were likely just days away from mounting their suicide attacks when they were arrested in August 2006.
A Saudi Arabian princess who had an illegitimate child with a British man has secretly been granted asylum in the UK after she claimed she would face the death penalty if she were forced to return home. The young woman, who has been granted anonymity by the courts, won her claim for refugee status after telling a judge that her adulterous affair made her liable to death by stoning.
Her case is one of a small number of claims for asylum brought by citizens of Saudi Arabia which are not openly acknowledged by either government. British diplomats believe that to do so would in effect be to highlight the persecution of women in Saudi Arabia, which would be viewed as open criticism of the House of Saud and lead to embarrassing publicity for both governments.