An employer who bans all religious clothing at work is not one I’d want to work for

The European Court of Justice ruled this week that employers can refuse to employ staff who insist on wearing headscarves – but the implications of the ruling are complex and do not necessarily constitute an attack on one particular faith

There is huge excitement in the world of fashion – finally, a beautiful woman who chooses to wear a head scarf for religious reasons has been signed by a top model agency. Halima Aden stars on the cover of a glossy magazine and appeared on the catwalk in Milan last month for Max Mara. Dressing modestly has become big business for the fashion industry, so you could accuse the company of cashing in – even Marks and Spencer have bowed to the trend and produced all-concealing swimwear. Dozens of top designers have rushed to make ‘modest’ versions of their collections for websites like, a high-end site aimed at the wealthy Arab market, which is worth billions.

Modest fashion has become the politically-correct term increasingly used to describe (generally) female clothing that reflects religious beliefs – but any controversy that ensues from deciding to conceal rather than reveal your body seems mostly to apply to Muslims. The modest way that nuns (or indeed monks and priests and archbishops) have dressed for hundreds of years passes without comment, but the partially-concealing hijab (which shows the wearer’s eyes) and the all-enveloping burka seem to polarise public opinion in a way that the wigs worn by Orthodox Jewish women do not.


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