The European Court of Justice handed right-wing nationalists a victory on Tuesday that allows employers to ban Muslim women and others who wear signs of their faith. With rising anti-Muslim sentiment in Europe, and elections coming in several nations where the populist right is expected to do well, this decision sends exactly the wrong message.

The court’s ruling involved two cases, one brought by a Frenchwoman against her employer, and one by a Belgian woman against hers. In both, the women were fired after refusing to remove their head scarves. In the French case, the woman was fired after a customer complained that he did not want to deal with an employee wearing a head scarf, and she refused to remove it. The court ruled rightly that the company could not fire the woman because of a client’s complaint. In the Belgian case, however, the court failed to protect religious liberty and minority rights by permitting discrimination under the guise of neutrality.

The Belgian employer had a policy that prohibited workers from exhibiting outward signs of religious faith. A Muslim employee, who worked as a receptionist, sued after she was fired for wearing a head scarf. The Belgian court handling the case asked the European court for clarification on requirements under European law.

In a far-reaching decision, the court ruled that “an internal rule of a private undertaking prohibiting the visible wearing of any political, philosophical or religious sign in the workplace does not constitute direct discrimination.” It maintained that there was no direct discrimination because the company’s policy did not single out Muslims. But it left open the possibility of illegal “indirect discrimination” if the ban harmed adherents of a particular religion.

The danger now is that companies will try to exclude Muslim and other religious minority workers who wear signs of their faith by imposing a seemingly neutral policy. Though the Islamic head scarf was specifically mentioned in the court’s judgment, other signs of religious belief, such as Sikh turbans or Jewish skullcaps, would also be affected.

Right-wing politicians were quick to hail the ruling, including Gilbert Collard, a leader of Rassemblement Bleu Marine, a group that supports France’s far-right National Front candidate for president, Marine Le Pen. Using the French acronym for the court, he tweeted: “Even the CJUE votes Marine.” The center-right candidate François Fillon called the ruling “an immense relief, not just for thousands of companies but also for their workers.”

For religious minorities in Europe, the ruling engendered new fears. Amnesty International denounced the ruling as having “opened a backdoor” to prejudice. The Conference of European Rabbis also condemned the ruling, saying: “With the rise of racially motivated incidents and today’s decision, Europe is sending a clear message: Its faith communities are no longer welcome.” Instead of guarding against rising prejudice across the continent, the European Court of Justice shows that it is not immune to the same political pressures.