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Headscarf ban unfair and discriminatory to Muslim women — Hazlin Chong

NOVEMBER 10 — In light of the recent news concerning the banning of headscarves amongst hotel employees [1], the International Women’s Alliance for Family Institution and Quality Education (Wafiq) sees the hijab ban as discriminatory and unnecessary, while questions the need for such restriction in Malaysia where Muslims make up the majority of its citizens.

Recently, we have been made aware that employees from certain hotels are forbidden to wear the headscarf at work, based on complaints made to the Malaysian Labour Centre of the Union Network International (Uni-MLC). There were also reports on students being advised to remove their headscarves to apply for internship. Wafiq also receives feedback by hotel employees across Malaysia that have faced similar situation where wearing the headscarf at work is disallowed. Some are not even “front-liners” (i.e. those who interact directly with hotel guests) and work “in the background”, but the no-headscarf policy still applies to them.

Given that Muslims comprise of approximately 60per cent of the multi-diverse Malaysian population, banning headscarves shows insensitivity towards the Malaysian culture and religious needs of its people. Many Muslim women choose to adorn the hijab as a fulfilment to the Islamic faith, and can easily be spotted across the country, both in rural and urban areas alike. Companies who choose to commit to such ban show an ill understanding of the above reality. This also reflects poorly on their diversity and equality policy.

Wafiq learns that the majority of the headscarf bans come from 5-star international chain hotels, of which local owners are required to adhere to a set of rules and regulations set by the headquarters. This includes what employees should and should not wear, which unfortunately translates into the banning of headscarves.

However, it is not impossible for the hotel owners to raise this particular matter to the headquarters for some change or flexibility in their policies that allow employees to adhere to both their religious and work requirements. Wafiq does not see wearing the hijab as deterrence to any Muslim woman to perform her best at work any more than a person who does not wear the headscarf.

Therefore, Wafiq urges hotel owners and those of similar position in any other industry to be sensitive to their employees’ needs to uphold their religious beliefs, including the wearing of headscarves. We need to understand that such ban is a blatant form of religious discrimination, and suggestive of Islamophobia. Both of these elements are not Malaysian, and should never be part of any company or entity that values respect and cultural and religious sensitivity in their workplace.

* Reference: [1] “Improper tu ban headscarf at workplace, says MEF”. Free Malaysia Today, 7 November 2017.  

** Hazlin Chong is the secretary of International Women’s Alliance for Family Institution and Quality Education (Wafiq).

*** This is the personal opinion of the writer or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of Malay Mail Online.

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