The European Union’s Court of Justice on Tuesday ruled that it is not discrimination if an employer bars employees from wearing religious symbols at their workplace, reported Reuters. The court was hearing the cases of two women – one in France and the other in Belgium – who had been sacked for refusing to remove their headscarves.

“An internal rule of an undertaking that prohibits the visible wearing of any political, philosophical or religious sign does not constitute direct discrimination,” the court said. However, the court added that such a rule cannot be based on the wishes of a customer, who refuses “to have the employer’s services provided by a worker wearing an Islamic headscarf”.

The burqa, which not only covers the head but the whole body, has long been at the centre of political discussions in European countries. In February, the Austrian government announced its plan to ban women from wearing full-face veils in public. Morocco banned the production, sale and import of the burqa for “security reasons” in January. German Chancellor Angela Merkel in December called for a burqa ban in Germany, “wherever legally possible”.

In August, the highest administrative court in France temporarily suspended a ban on “burkinis” or swimwear Muslim women consider appropriate, saying it “seriously, and clearly illegally” breached several fundamental freedoms, including “the freedom of beliefs and individual freedom”. The issue has also prompted a debate on secularism, with some accusing politicians of using the issue for electoral gains. In December last year, German Chancellor Angela Merkel had called for a burqa ban in the country.